MARS, HERE WE COME!
Mars is one of eight full-sized planets in our solar system. There are nine planets if the dwarf planet Pluto is included. Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and is our closest neighbor in the Milky Way, the galaxy we exist in.
Because Mars is the planet that is most like Earth, humans are interested in going there. There are many reasons humans want to go to Mars and we will explore the reasons below!
Here are some quick, but important facts to know before we launch into more concepts about Mars.
- Mars is sometimes called the Red Planet. It’s red because of rusty iron mixed in with the ground soil.
- Mars is about half the size of Earth.
- Mars has seasons, just like Earth, as well as north and south poles. It also tilts on an axis.
- Mars is a very cold planet with an average temperature of -80 F. However, it reached a record high of 68 F near the Mars equator in the summer.
- Mars has been known since ancient times because it can be seen without telescopes.
- Mars is the only planet humans have sent rovers to. Rovers are robots that humans control remotely from Earth. They are vehicles that drive around Mars, taking pictures, drilling the surface for rock samples, and they take measurements of the environment.
- It takes about 7 months with current spacecraft technology to get to Mars from Earth.
WHY DO PEOPLE WANT TO GO TO MARS?
- Sending humans to Mars is a fantastic adventure. Exploring is something humans have done throughout the time our species (humans–otherwise known as people) has existed. We’ve spread around the entire world–to all places that are habitable, and even to places that are hard to live, like Antarctica and the North Pole.
- We want to go to Mars because we are curious. We want to know–was there life on Mars at some point? Did life go extinct there? If so, why? Maybe a long, long time ago, Martians were alive and looked at Earth and wondered about what it would be like to travel to Earth. We just don’t know, so we want to explore and find out.
- We want to go to Mars because it is a scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) challenge. Finding a way to do something that is very hard to do is rewarding, especially when not so long ago it seemed impossible to go to Mars. Little by little, with all the hard work of lots of people, we’re coming closer to realizing the dream of reaching Mars. And, if we can get there, maybe people can live there.
- Resources are another reason people want to go to Mars and elsewhere in the universe. From what we have already discovered, elements identified on the periodic table that exists on Earth, exist elsewhere in the galaxy. Mars is the color red because it has a lot of iron, for example. Humans use iron to make steel, which is a very useful resource. As our species continues to grow in numbers, we may need resources from other planets to help us live and continue our endeavors.
Getting to Mars would be the single greatest achievement in all of human history. We would become an interplanetary species. This means that people live on more than one planet. Some people are concerned that a number of things could go wrong on Earth, causing most, if not all, species on Earth to perish. If we had enough humans on Mars, then our species can continue to exist in case something goes wrong on one of the planets we exist on. Who says we have to stay on Earth? Humans are smart enough to do almost anything imaginable and going to Mars would prove that.
WHAT DOES MARS LOOK LIKE?
Mars is sometimes called the Red Planet. On the surface of Mars, there happens to be a lot of iron, an element that also exists on Earth. When iron is mixed with water, it rusts. Rust is red. This rust in the surface soil gives Mars its’ red color. Here on Earth, you may have seen a nail covered with rust. It’s the same concept. On Mars, there is water, mostly in the form of ice, which changes the color of the iron through a process called oxidation.
There is water on Mars, but it is mostly always frozen because of the cold temperatures. However, this water, even though it is mostly frozen, is one reason humans think they can go to Mars and possibly live there. Humans cannot live without access to water, but if another planet, like Mars, has water, then we can imagine and work towards living on Mars.
See what Mars looks like from the surface!
WHAT IS HAPPENING ON MARS RIGHT NOW?
On February 18, 2021, NASA landed the Perseverance Rover. You can watch the official NASA landing video!
What is the goal of Perseverance’s mission?
The Perseverance Rover landed in a dried-out crater that used to be a lake about a billion years ago. This former lake is now a crater called Jezero Crater. Since Jezero crater used to hold water about a billion years ago, this is the best place to look for signs of ancient life. We believe that all life needs water to survive, so Jezero Crater offers a good place to start looking. Perseverance will look for ancient life signs, such as fossilized organisms or anything else that could indicate past life.
The Perseverance Rover will also study the evolution of Mars’ climate, surface, and the interior of the planet. The rover will also test out technologies for future human exploration of Mars. In addition to these science goals, Perseverance has a unique goal of collecting and caching samples of Mars material for possible future return.
A good way to find out what the latest news is in regards to Mars is to check the NASA site!
MORE RESOURCES ABOUT MARS
A very fun “choose your own adventure” story.
Highly recommended! This is an essential audiobook to learn about how we will live on Mars.
If you didn’t get a library supply kit, you might still have supplies at home to do the project. Check out the NASA website for details about how to design and build a Mars lander using paper plates and cups!