Galileo was the first person to look at Mars through a telescope, although it has always been visible to the naked eye since humans first started to roam the Earth. Named after the Roman God of war, humans have long looked up at Mars in awe and wonder.
Of course, Mars has two moons, is the closest planet to Earth and has a fiery red hue – but there are far more reasons why Mars is the most interesting planet outside Earth.
One factor important for us in the 21st century, is that humans may be able to walk on Mars in our lifetime. NASA and the Russian Space Agency have worked together to research conditions for flying to Mars.
As part of the $6 billion project, 10 American and Russian astronauts were put in a solitary confined capsule for 18 months to test whether they could manage to the journey to Mars. They found that the astronauts possessed the necessary endurance to tolerate each other on limited means in a small space. Research is continuing on the possibility of voyaging to Mars potentially as soon as 2024, which is much more optimistic than some past predictions
This year NASA mapped Mars for the first time in half a decade. The imaging robot landed in May and took photographs of the inside of Mars using “Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport”. Knowing what Mars looks like inside and out is a step towards an expedition to the planet.
If a travel agency were selling a holiday to Mars, they would definitely pitch the tranquillity of the destination. The planet certainly has a minimalist aesthetic – all one colour with no inhabitants and relatively little land forms in variation of gradient. From a scientific view, Mars gets its distinctive red colour from the high concentration of iron in its sandy surface.
Swimming on the Surface
Mars has only 38% of the gravity of Earth, meaning that being on Mars would be similar to swimming in the sea. Its hard, flat surface makes the mass of Mars third only to Venus and Earth. What’s more, Mars can be as near us as 33.9 million miles away. On an interstellar scale, that’s a tiny distance.
Mars is the next most habitable planet for humans as the average surface temperature during a summer day at the equator is 20°C, but the air is 100% carbon dioxide. This means astronauts on Mars would need oxygen tanks attached to their space suits if they were to land there. It also gets extremely cold at night, reaching temperatures as low as -100°C.
If earth runs out of cool, fresh water, look no further than Mars. NASA can confirm there’s evidence of water running down hills, as found by satellite images in 2015. There is also H2O beneath its rock surface and ice caps – if NASA can find a way of penetrating the ice quickly enough to prevent the water freezing as they suck it into containers aboard the space shuttle.
There is in fact life on Mars that isn’t steeped in science fiction. NASA have found all the evidence for past life but haven’t quite hit the jackpot of a living organism just yet. Maybe – just maybe – humans will be the next living beings to inhabit the red planet