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Thursday, 31 March 2016



The recorded history of Mars observation dates back to the era of the ancient Egyptian astronomers in the 2nd millennium BC. Detailed observations of the position of Mars were made by Babylonian astronomers, and ancient Greek philosophers and Hellenistic astronomers developed a geocentric model to explain the planet's motions. Indian and Islamic astronomers estimated its size and distance from Earth.

The Egyptians bestowed the Red Planet with its first recorded name, Har d├Ęcher, which means "The red one." The Babylonians likewise called the planet Nergal, or "Star of death," while the Greeks and Romans both named the planet after their respective gods of war, Ares and Mars respectively. The Hebrews called it Ma'adim, or "One who blushes."

The first telescopic observation of Mars was by Galileo Galilei in 1610.

In Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift described the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, giving their exact size and speeds of rotation. He did this more than 100 years before either moon was officially discovered.

The first crude map of Mars was published in 1840.

When astronomers mistakenly thought they had detected the spectroscopic signature of water in the Martian atmosphere, the idea of life on Mars became popular.

In HG Wells's The War of the Worlds, Martians landed in Woking, Surrey, 23 miles south west of London.

During the 1920s, the range of Martian surface temperature was measured; it ranged from -85 °C (-121 °F) to 7 °C (45 °F). The planetary atmosphere was found to be arid with only trace amounts of oxygen and water.

Since the 1960s, multiple robotic spacecraft have been sent to explore Mars. Mariner 4 sent the first photograph of Mars on July 14, 1965 —it took eight hours to arrive.

The first digital image from Mars

The Viking 1 lander became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the planet on July 20, 1976 and perform its mission.

Landing on Mars had been planned for July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial, but imaging of the primary landing site showed it was too rough for a safe landing. The landing was delayed until a safer site was found.

Spirit, a NASA Mars rover, landed successfully on Mars at 04:35 UTC on January 4, 2004.

Viking 1 held the record for the longest Mars surface mission of 2307 days until that record was broken by Opportunity on May 19, 2010.

Viking Lander model. By Mark Pelligrino - Wikipedia Commons
Opportunity was the second of the two rovers launched in 2003 to land on Mars and begin traversing the Red Planet in search of signs of past life.  Opportunity landed on Mars the following year to begin missions planned to last three months, but has far exceeded expectations and remains active.

Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years on August 27, 2003, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 km) distant.


Despite being known as the Red planet, the color of Mars is closer to butterscotch.

Mars' reddish color is a result of iron oxide, which is known as rust and has the consistency of talcum powder. The iron oxide forms a rust dust that floats in the atmosphere and creates a coating across much of the landscape. The metallic rocks on Mars are literally rusting.

Exposure of silica-rich dust uncovered by the Spirit rover

Mars has the highest known volcano in the Solar System, the 13.6 miles (nearly 22 km) high Olympus Mons, is about two and a half times as tall as Mount Everest.

It is half the size of Earth, has two polar ice caps and has similar seasons to our planet. The Martian day is only 41 minutes longer than the day on earth.

Gravity on Mars is only about 40% that of Earth's, so a person would be 60% lighter.

The average temperature on Mars is -63C.

The highest recorded surface temperature on Mars is 35C.

Mars has the largest and most violent dust storms in our entire solar system, often with winds winds topping 125 mph. The storms can last for weeks and can cover the entire planet.

On September 29, 2008, the Phoenix lander took pictures of snow falling from clouds 4.5 km above its landing site near Heimdall crater. The precipitation vaporized before reaching the ground, a phenomenon called virga.

Mars has barely any atmosphere - about one per cent of the density of the atmospheric blanket around Earth. That's not enough to protect the surface from dangerous space radiation.

Because Mars has almost no atmosphere, its sunrises and sunsets appear blue.

India's Mars mission cost less than the movie Gravity.

The Outer Space Treaty states that robots and humans can't get close to water sources on Mars for fear of contaminating it with Earth life.


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