On November 28, we celebrate our close neighbor in space, the planet Mars. The date commemorates the day in 1964 when Mariner 4, a robotic interplanetary probe was launched by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mariner 4 became the first spacecraft to successfully fly by Mars. It also gave the world the first close-up images of Mars. Most people know that Mars was named after the Roman god of War, because of its red color. Its two small moons are named Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Panic).
Mars is 4220 miles in diameter, which makes it roughly half the size of Earth. A Martian year is 687 days. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars. Temperatures range from about -191 to +81 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet seems to be built similarly to the way the Earth is put together, with a solid core, but the atmosphere is very different, as Mars it ninety-six percent carbon dioxide. So although we have dreams of someday sending humans to Mars, they are always going to need suits on the surface.
The Mars Odyssey spacecraft is currently orbiting Mars, and using the Thermal Emission Imaging System or THEMIS, it constantly sends back pictures from the planet. You can see them here. Also, NASA has a large gallery of pictures from the planet, which can be seen here. Many of them are from the rovers on the ground.
Of course, once we thought Mars was inhabited, and folks like Percival Lowell, traced the “canals’ that brought water from the Martian ice caps to the civilization farther down the planet. Alas, that turned out not to be true, though scientists now believe there is indeed some water on the planet. Whether or not they are right, there should be exciting developments around the Red Planet in the near future.
Quotes about Mars
That planet has a considerable but moderate atmosphere. So that the inhabitants probably enjoy a situation in many respects similar to ours.–William Herschel (1784)
The present inhabitation of Mars be a race superior to ours is very probable.–Camille Flammarion 1892)
Speculation has been singularly fruitful as to what these markings on our next to nearest neighbor in space may mean. Each astronomer holds a different pet theory on the subject, and pooh-poohs those of all the others. Nevertheless, the most self-evident explanation from the markings themselves is probably the true one; namely, that in them we are looking upon the result of the work of some sort of intelligent beings… . The amazing blue network on Mars hints that one planet besides our own is actually inhabited now.–Percival Lowell (1894)
Mars, therefore, is not only uninhabited by intelligent beings such as Mr. Lowell postulates, but is absolutely uninhabitable.–Alfred Russel Wallac (1907)
The logistic requirements for a large, elaborate mission to Mars are no greater that those for a minor military operation extending over a limited theatre of war.–Wernher von Braun 1952)
We have your satellite if you want it back send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again.–Reportedly seen on a wall in a hall at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, after losing contact with the Mars Polar Lander, 1999
We are all … children of this universe. Not just Earth, or Mars, or this system, but the whole grand fireworks. And if we are interested in Mars at all, it is only because we wonder over our past and worry terribly about our possible future.–Ray Bradbury
If it’s a new planet, sign me up. I’m tired of driving around the block, boldly going where hundreds have gone before in orbit around earth — give me a place to go and I’ll go.–Neil deGrasse Tyson
It’s a fixer-upper of a planet but we could make it work.–Elon Musk
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