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Basic Information

Mars, the Red Planet is the fourth closest planet to the Sun in our solar system, lying between Earth and Jupiter. It is 34 million miles from Earth. The orbits of the two planets means that the best opportunity for a short trip to Mars from Earth happens once every two years. Even then, with our current technology, it takes about 7 months to cross the gap.

Mars is a Terrestrial Planet with an Iron core. In fact, Iron is one of the most common elements found on Mars. Rusting iron colors the rocks, the dust, even the atmosphere, and gives Mars the nickname "The Red Planet".

Climate, Weather, and Water

Ice has been found on Mars at poles, and also just beneath the surface. The polar caps are made of Dry Ice. Water ice exists in the Martian Permafrost, and thus probably in Aquifers. Images from one of the craters now show what appears to have been some water flow within recent years - but that that flow quickly evaporated. Mars has a very thin atmosphere, and is extremely cold. The combination of no pressure and cold temperature means that liquid water can only exist for brief moments of time and only in certain situations. Typically, the ice turns straight to gas without ever becoming a liquid, via a process called Sublimation (chemistry). In order for liquid water to exist for more than a few moments on Mars' surface, it would need a thicker atmosphere. However, because Mars has a very minimal magnetic field, it's atmosphere is regularly blasted away by Coronal Mass Ejections from the Sun. This makes Terraforming Mars a complicated proposition.

The temperature of Mars can get as low as -100oF at night. The clouds are mostly composed of Carbon Dioxide. Windstorms are frequent, including Dust Devils that race across the surface.

Notable Regions, Features, and Satellites:

Mars is much smaller than earth, but has geological features that dwarf those on Earth.

Man-Made Objects on Mars

Objects Origin Arrival
Mars 2 and Mars 3 USSR 1971
Mars 6 USSR 1973
Viking 1 & Viking 2 landers United States 1976
Mars Pathfinder lander & Sojourner (rover) United States 1997
Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander & Deep Space 2 United States 1999
Beagle 2 (mission lost, landing status unknown) UK / ESA 2003
Spirit rover (MER-A) and Opportunity rover (MER-B) United States 2004
Phoenix (spacecraft) United States 2008

See Also:


3. NonFiction TV: The Universe from The History Channel

Game and Story Use

  • Given the Face On Mars (and other features in the Cydonia region), and the presence of ice/water (that was detected and acknowledge by the ESA several years before NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander found it), it's a natural for any game with conspiracy theories.
  • It's also the likely site of our likely first colony on another planet.
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