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Will Mars Surrender Its Secrets?

Mars has a year that's equivalent to 687 Earth days, and the 25 hours in its day are just slightly more than a day on Earth.

By A B ForbesPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

British spelling.

This planet can be as far away as 400 million kilometres and as close as 56 million kilometres from the Earth. It is the fourth-closest planet to the Sun, with an average distance of just over 228 million kilometres.

Mars is much smaller than the Earth, with a diameter of just 6,794 kilometres. The surface temperatures near the poles can drop to minus 125 degrees Celsius and can sometimes rise to 20 degrees Celsius at the equator, giving an average temperature of around minus 65 degrees Celsius.

The thin atmosphere consists mostly of carbon dioxide and features clouds, weather systems, and winds.

For Mars to make a complete trip around the Sun, takes 1.88 Earth years, referred to as a Martian year. An interesting feature on Mars is the giant, inactive volcano, Olympus Mons.

This monster is 22,000 metres high and is the largest volcano in the entire solar system. As a comparison, Earth's highest mountain, Mount Everest, is a mere 8,848 metres high.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Launched on August 20, 1975, NASA's Viking 1 project found a place in history when it became the first mission to safely land a spacecraft on the surface of another planet, namely Mars.

A lot has happened since then. The Mars Rover Opportunity landed safely on the red planet in 2004. It was sent to look for any signs of past life.

Opportunity made a few discoveries, including evidence that in the distant past, some areas of the planet stayed wet for a long time, and the conditions could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life.

After a severe dust storm in June 2018, Opportunity fell silent. It is thought that its solar panels became covered in dust, which resulted in the loss of power.

The rover covered a total distance of 45 kilometres during its working life; how impressive a feat that is after all those years on a very inhospitable planet!

I wonder how long it will be before someone from Earth stands beside Opportunity.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

Reaching Mars is hard and unforgiving. As of this date, February 2024, over 50 unmanned missions have attempted the journey; many were not successful as there is little room for error, which shows how difficult these missions to faraway destinations can be.

Another rover Curiosity is still working on the planet, exploring an area known as Gale Crater. It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on November 26, 2011, touching down on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012, only 2.4 kilometres from its planned landing site, not a bad outcome considering its very long journey. Another amazing achievement for the human race

Nasa's latest rover, Perseverance, left Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its long journey to Mars in July 2020. At that time, Earth and Mars were in a good position relative to each other for the long flight to the red planet. Careful consideration was crucial in placing the rover in the most promising area of the planet to achieve an effective scientific study.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Its four main objectives will be to determine if life ever arose on Mars, study the climate, gain more information on the geology of Mars, and prepare for human exploration.

Perseverance will leave rock core samples at certain areas on the surface. They are planned to be picked up by another rover and returned to Earth sometime in the future.

I hope it will find some evidence of microbial life that did exist when Mars had a friendlier environment. There is compelling evidence that Mars had, in fact, at one time ample water flowing on its surface.

On February 18, 2021, Perseverance safely landed on the surface of the red planet. It took almost 7 months to travel the 480 million kilometres. Perseverance hit the Martian atmosphere, travelling at 20,000 kilometres per hour.

The atmosphere slowed it down enough for the parachute to deploy, and then it was up to the eight retrorockets on the descent stage to slow it down even more.

The sky crane gently lowered the rover the last 20 metres for a soft landing. As the rover's wheels touched the surface, the cables that were attached to the descent stage were severed, and it flew away to crash at a safe distance.

The rover touched down on its intended target, inside the Jezero crater, which was a Martian lake billions of years ago. Everything went according to plan, and it is now continuing to carry out its scientific work.

Good luck, Perseverance.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Mars has two orbiting moons which are called Phobos and Deimos. Not including shepherd moons, Deimos is classed as the smallest moon in the Solar System.

The end.


You may find my easy-to-understand stories about the universe and life interesting and educational.

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About the Creator

A B Forbes

Someone with a lifelong passion for that gargantuan area we call the universe. I also write stories about life itself. Enjoy

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