Kid's illustration of rover on the surface of Mars.
Robotic rovers are one way we explore the surface of Mars.

The Red Planet

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. It is sometimes called the "Red Planet" because of its red soil. The soil on Mars is red because it contains iron oxide (rust).

Color image of the whole sun.
Pretend you are a Martian travel agent.
What would tourists need to bring to
Mars? Describe the weather. What
are the most exciting places to visit?
Make a travel brochure to share.

Mars is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It has been known since ancient times. The planet is named for the Roman god of war.

Mars is a little like Earth, only smaller, drier and colder. There are places on Earth that are a little like Mars -- Death Valley, Calif., Antarctica and some volcanoes in Hawaii. Both planets have polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons and four seasons (the seasons on Mars are twice as long). Compare Mars with Earth and other planets.

The thin air on Mars makes it a dangerous place for humans. It is mostly poisonous carbon dioxide. You would need a spacesuit to visit Mars. Recently, scientists found lots of frozen water (scientists say water ice) just under the surface of Mars. This means astronauts who may visit Mars in the future will have plenty of water -- enough to fill Lake Michigan twice.

Mars is a rocky planet. It is dusty and dry. The sky would be hazy and red instead of blue. Sometimes giant dust storms cover the whole planet.

Exploring Mars would be hard. But there are lots of things to see and learn. Olympus Mons, a volcano on Mars may be the largest volcano in our solar system. It is three times taller than Mt. Everest (the tallest mountain on Earth) and as big as the state of New Mexico. Valles Marineris is a grand canyon that is almost as long as the United States of America is wide. There are also lots of interesting meteor craters and rocks.

On Mars, you would see two moons in the sky. Their names are Phobos (fear) and Deimos (panic). The moons get their scary names from the horses that pulled the chariot of the Greek god Ares. The moons may be asteroids captured by Mars' gravity. Phobos is slowly moving towards Mars. It will crash into Mars or break apart in about 50 million years.