Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun – a dusty, cold, desert world with a very thin atmosphere. Mars is also a dynamic planet with seasons, polar ice caps, canyons, extinct volcanoes, and evidence that it was even more active in the past.
Mars is one of the most explored bodies in our solar system, and it's the only planet where we've sent rovers to roam the alien landscape.
Perseverance rover – the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world – touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometers). The Ingenuity helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of Perseverance.
Perseverance is one of three spacecraft that arrived at Mars in 2021. The Hope orbiter from the United Arab Emirates arrived on Feb. 9, 2021. China’s Tianwen-1 mission arrived on Feb. 10, 2021, and includes an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. Europe and India also have spacecraft studying Mars from orbit.
In May 2021, China became the second nation to ever land successfully on Mars when its Zhurong Mars rover touched down.
These robotic explorers have found lots of evidence that Mars was much wetter and warmer, with a thicker atmosphere, billions of years ago.Ten Things to Know About Mars
No other planet has captured our collective imagination quite like Mars.
In the late 1800s when people first observed the canal-like features on Mars' surface, many speculated that an intelligent alien species resided there. This led to numerous stories about Martians, some of whom invade Earth, like in the 1938 radio drama, "The War of the Worlds." According to an enduring urban legend, many listeners believed the story to be real news coverage of an invasion, causing widespread panic.
Countless stories since have taken place on Mars or explored the possibilities of its Martian inhabitants. Movies like "Total Recall" (1990 and 2012) take us to a terraformed Mars and a struggling colony running out of air. A Martian colony and Earth have a prickly relationship in "The Expanse" television series and novels.
And in the 2014 novel and its 2015 movie adaptation, "The Martian," botanist Mark Watney is stranded alone on the planet and struggles to survive until a rescue mission can retrieve him.Kid-Friendly Mars Read More