Mars is one of the planets in our proximity that has continued to fascinate humankind from the early days. Bearing the name of various gods of war – from Har Decker and Nergal to Ares and Mars – the Red Planet is the host of the most violent dust storms, the tallest volcano and the largest canyon in the solar system. Still, these are not the only mysteries this huge cold desert holds as you are about to find out.
1. There is water on Mars!
The main reason why space exploration is such an exciting topic resides in the fact that humankind actually hopes to find proof of extraterrestrial life. In order to validate this theory, missions on Mars have struggled to find one of the basic elements that are responsible for life as we know it: water. So far, only Martian mission Phoenix has confirmed that the existence of water in the North Pole of Mars, although it is not in the liquid form we’re accustomed to.
On a side note, Curiosity also brought solid evidence that rivers and oceans once existed on Mars. NASA had a press release in January this year where they announced the rover found several traces in the minerals that, according to our current knowledge, could not have developed without the presence of water.
2. The planet’s atmospheric pressure will make your blood bubble
The atmospheric pressure on Mars is 100 times less than the one on Earth and one of the main consequences of this fact is that all liquid substances will start to bubble almost instantly. Therefore, considering that the adult human body is on average 57% – 60% water, stepping on Mars without wearing appropriate protection equipment means your blood will start bubbling and you will die instantly.
3. The Red Planet “hosts” the largest dust storms in the entire solar system
In all fairness, even the deadliest storms in history like the Bhola Cyclone (1970), Typhoon Nina (1975) or Hurricane Kenna (2002) are no match for the Martian dust storms. As a matter of fact, a single dust storm on Mars has the tremendous power to cover the entire planet for months!
4. Valles Marineris is the largest canyon in the solar system
If you think that the Grand Canyon is an impressive sight, just wait until you hear about the largest canyon in the solar system. Valles Marineris measures over 4,000 kilometers long, meaning that it is practically ten times longer than the Grand Canyon. In addition, the Martian canyon is approximately 7.2 kilometers deep, four times deeper than our own.
5. Mount Olympus is the biggest volcano of the solar system
Majestically standing 25 kilometers high above the plains of Mars, Mount Olympus is known as the tallest volcano in the entire solar system. In addition to its impressive height, the volcano also has a fairly large base, enough to cover the entire state of Arizona. While you could say this is ironic given the fact that Mars is actually half the size of Earth, there is an explanation to the phenomenon. To put it simply, unlike Earth the hot spots on Martian soil are stationary, whereas the tectonic plates tend to move above the crust.
6. Travelling to Mars is an one-way trip
According to NASA, out of the 8 landing missions to Mars, seven of them were successful attempts. Leaving the success stories aside for a second, it is necessary to mention that all rovers and spacecrafts sent to the Red Planet will remain on Mars after they have completed their missions. Not to mention that it does raise some serious ethical questions regarding the Mars One mission scheduled for 2023, which will also carry human passengers along with equipment.
7. No human has set foot on Mars, yet!
Starting with the success of the Viking 1 and 2 missions back in 1976 and ending with Curiosity’s landing in 2012, humankind has felt an overwhelming urge to set foot on Mars. Even though NASA experts claim that with our current technology such a feat would be impossible, the Mars One program contradicts their theory. At this point, it is hard to say whether Mars One will be a suicide mission or if it will mark a milestone in human history, namely the first successful terraforming.
8. We don’t know who discovered Mars
The historical data regarding the person or nation that discovered the Red Planet are rather ambiguous. To be more precise, some data suggests that the ancient Egyptians were the first to identify the planet and name it after the god of war Har decher or The Red One. However, recent evidence indicates that the discoverer of Mars was actually Copernicus who also allegedly analyzed it via the telescope. On a side note, Christian Huygens is said to be the first person to notice and draw the dark side of Mars.
9. Snow never reaches ground on Mars
In spite of the fact that Mars is similar to Earth from certain points of view, it is important to note that the meteorological conditions there are considerably different. Hypothetically speaking, if you were to stand right above the equator in the Martian summer, you would be very hot on one side of the body and freezing on the other side. It is this strange weather that made scientists believe the snow on Mars does not reach ground, but rather turns into gas or ice. And, considering the Martian atmosphere’s composition, the snowflakes are as big as a red cell and are made of carbon dioxide.
10. It takes at least one year to get to Mars and back
An important limitation that might have stopped scientists from sending a human crew to Mars is the great distance between the two planets. In the best case scenario – where Earth and Mars are at a minimum distance from each other – it still takes 8 months to get there and 8 more to come back home. Provided of course that, you are travelling very light and your journey is not interrupted by any meteorite crashing into your spaceship.