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Category: planets and dwarf planets
Update May 21, 2023

Planet Mars

Characteristics of the Planet Mars

Image: Mars is the only planet whose ground we can clearly see from our terrestrial observations.
Image credit: NASA.

Characteristics of the Planet Mars

Mars is a fascinating exploration destination and a source of interest in the search for life beyond Earth. Mars is often called "the red planet" because of its distinct color. The surface of Mars is rich in iron oxide, which gives it that characteristic reddish tint.

The planet Mars is home to the highest volcano in the solar system, its name, Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons rises about 22 kilometers above the average level of the Martian surface. It has a diameter of about 600 kilometers, which also makes it one of the widest volcanoes.
Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons: These three volcanoes are also known as "Tharsis Montes" and are part of the Tharsis volcanic region on Mars. Ascraeus Mons reaches a height of about 18 kilometers, Pavonis Mons reaches a height of about 14 kilometers, and Arsia Mons reaches a height of about 12 kilometers.

Mars also has the largest known canyon in our solar system, the Valles Marineris. This canyon system is approximately 4,000 kilometers in length, about four times the length of the Grand Canyon on Earth.

Like Earth, Mars has polar caps. These polar caps are mostly made of water ice, but they also contain layers of frozen carbon dioxide, or "dry ice", which changes seasonally.

Mars' atmosphere is much thinner than Earth's, consisting mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), with small amounts of nitrogen and argon. Martian atmospheric pressure is about 0.6% of Earth's.

Temperatures on the surface of Mars can vary widely. Maximum temperatures can reach around 20°C at equatorial latitudes during summer, while minimum temperatures can drop to around -140°C.

Robotic missions and observations from Mars orbit have provided compelling evidence for the presence of liquid water in Mars' past. Geological formations such as valleys, riverbeds and mineral deposits have been interpreted as indicators of a wet past on the planet.

The moons of the planet Mars

- Phobos is the larger of the two moons of Mars, with an irregular elongated shape. It orbits at a distance of about 6,000 kilometers from the surface of the planet. Phobos is in synchronous rotation with Mars, which means that it always shows the same face to the planet. This moon is covered in impact craters, testifying to its violent history. Its largest crater is called Stickney. Phobos is one of the closest moons to its parent body in the entire solar system.

- Deimos is the smaller of the two moons of Mars. It is also a moon with an elongated and irregular shape, but it is more regular than Phobos. It orbits at a distance of about 23,500 kilometers from the surface of the planet. Deimos is also in synchronous rotation with Mars, always showing the same face to the planet. Its surface is dotted with impact craters, but it is less cratered than Phobos.

The main space missions to the Planet Mars

1960:
- March 1 (Soviet Union, 1962): Mars flyby mission.
- Mariner 3 (United States, 1964): Mars exploration mission, but the mission failed.
- Mariner 4 (United States, 1964): First successful mission to fly over Mars, providing the first close-up images of the planet.

1970:
- Mariner 6 (United States, 1969): Mars exploration mission, provided images of the Martian surface.
- Mariner 7 (United States, 1969): Mars exploration mission, provided images of the Martian surface.
- Viking 1 (United States, 1975): Landing mission on Mars, carried out analyzes and experiments on the surface of Mars.
- Viking 2 (United States, 1975): Landing mission on Mars, carried out analyzes and experiments on the surface of Mars.

1980:
- Phobos 1 (Soviet Union, 1988): Mission to study Mars and its moon Phobos, but the mission failed.
- Phobos 2 (Soviet Union, 1988): Study mission of Mars and its moon Phobos, provided high resolution images before losing contact with Earth.

1990:
- Mars Pathfinder (United States, 1996): Landing mission on Mars, deployed the Sojourner rover for geological studies.
- Mars Global Surveyor (United States, 1996): Martian orbit mission, mapped the surface and studied the atmosphere of Mars.

2000:
- Mars Odyssey (United States, 2001): Martian orbit mission, studied the chemical composition of the surface and the radiation environment.
- Mars Express (European Space Agency, 2003): Martian orbit mission, studied the atmosphere, geology and the presence of water on Mars.

2010:
- Mars Science Laboratory (United States, 2011): Mission that deployed the Curiosity rover to study the geology, chemistry and habitability of Mars.
- Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (United States, 2013): Martian orbit mission, studied the atmosphere of Mars.
- ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (European Space Agency and Roscosmos, 2016): Martian orbit mission, studied rare gases in the atmosphere of Mars.

2020:
- Mars Perseverance Rover (United States, 2020): Mission that deployed the Perseverance rover to study geology, search for signs of life and collect samples for return to Earth.
- Tianwen-1 (China, 2020): Mission which includes an orbiter, a lander and a rover to study the geology, the atmosphere and the presence of water on Mars.



           
           

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