Related topics: nasa · red planet · spacecraft · earth · liquid water

China to build moon station in 'about 10 years'

Beijing plans to send a manned mission to the moon and to build a research station there within the next decade, state media reported Wednesday, citing a top space official.

'Marsquake': first tremor detected on Red Planet

Scientists said Tuesday they might have detected the first known seismic tremor on Mars in a discovery that could shed light on the ancient origins of Earth's neighbour.

Tests for the InSight 'Mole'

A blue box, a cubic metre of Mars-like sand, a rock, a fully-functional model of the Mars 'Mole' and a seismometer – these are the main components with which the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und ...

Curiosity tastes first sample in 'clay-bearing unit'

Scientists working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been excited to explore a region called "the clay-bearing unit" since before the spacecraft launched. Now, the rover has finally tasted its first sample from this part ...

Image: Mars dust devil detail

Mars may have a reputation for being a desolate world, but it is certainly not dead: its albeit thin atmosphere is still capable of whipping up a storm and, as this image reveals, send hundreds – maybe even thousands – ...

Curiosity captured two solar eclipses on Mars

When NASA's Curiosity Mars rover landed in 2012, it brought along eclipse glasses. The solar filters on its Mast Camera (Mastcam) allow it to stare directly at the Sun. Over the past few weeks, Curiosity has been putting ...

NASA's Mars helicopter completes flight tests

Since the Wright brothers first took to the skies of Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, Dec. 17, 1903, first flights have been important milestones in the life of any vehicle designed for air travel. After all, it's one thing ...

Can organisms survive on Mars, and can we identify them?

Earth is a very special planet. It is the only celestial body in the solar system on which we know life exists. Could there be life on other planets or moons? Mars is always the first mentioned in this context; it has many ...

Asteroids, hydrogen make great recipe for life on Mars

A new study reveals asteroid impacts on ancient Mars could have produced key ingredients for life if the Martian atmosphere was rich in hydrogen. An early hydrogen-rich atmosphere on Mars could also explain how the planet ...

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2.7% Nitrogen 1.6% Argon 0.2% Oxygen 0.07% Carbon monoxide 0.03% Water vapor 0.01% Nitric oxide 2.5 ppm Neon 300 ppb Krypton 130 ppb Formaldehyde 80 ppb Xenon 30 ppb Ozone

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. It is also referred to as the "Red Planet" because of its reddish appearance, due to iron oxide prevalent on its surface.

Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth. It is the site of Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon. Furthermore, in June 2008 three articles published in Nature presented evidence of an enormous impact crater in Mars' northern hemisphere, 10,600 km long by 8,500 km wide, or roughly four times larger than the largest impact crater yet discovered, the South Pole-Aitken basin. In addition to its geographical features, Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are likewise similar to those of Earth.

Until the first flyby of Mars by Mariner 4 in 1965, many speculated that there might be liquid water on the planet's surface. This was based on observations of periodic variations in light and dark patches, particularly in the polar latitudes, which looked like seas and continents, while long, dark striations were interpreted by some observers as irrigation channels for liquid water. These straight line features were later proven not to exist and were instead explained as optical illusions. Still, of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbor liquid water, and perhaps life. Radar data from Mars Express and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice both at the poles (July 2005) and at mid-latitudes (November 2008). The Phoenix Mars Lander directly sampled water ice in shallow martian soil on July 31, 2008.

Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. With the exception of Earth, this is more than any planet in the Solar System. The surface is also home to the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and several inert landers and rovers, both successful and unsuccessful. The Phoenix lander recently completed its mission on the surface. Geological evidence gathered by these and preceding missions suggests that Mars previously had large-scale water coverage, while observations also indicate that small geyser-like water flows have occurred during the past decade. Observations by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding.

Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. These may be captured asteroids, similar to 5261 Eureka, a Martian Trojan asteroid. Mars can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.9, a brightness surpassed only by Venus, the Moon, and the Sun, although most of the time Jupiter will appear brighter to the naked eye than Mars. Mars has an average opposition distance of 78 million km but can come as close as 55.7 million km during a close approach, such as occured in 2003.

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