Archive for the ‘Water on Mars’ Category
1. Mars has the biggest mountain in the solar system.
It’s called “Olympus Mons” and it’s actually a dormant volcano. Olympus Mons is 15.5 miles high and 372 miles across. To give you an idea, Mt. Everest is between 5 and 6 miles tall. Mars also has the biggest canyon system in the known universe, the “Valles Marineris,” which is 2,500 miles long and 4 miles deep.
2. People have always wondered about life on mars because of the “canals” first seen by early astronomers.
This is why we have always imagined alien invaders coming from there, and not Jupiter or Venus. Actually, Mars is one of the least habitable planets, with freezing temperatures, solar winds, and almost no atmosphere. It is far more likely for there to be life on Venus. The canals seen by early observers are long, straight lines on the planet’s surface that scientists believe are evidence of water.
3. Mars is named after the Roman god of war because its red color reminded early observers of blood.
The reason for the red color is that the soil is composed of iron oxide, or what we commonly call rust.
4. Compared to the other planets in the solar system, Mars is quite small.
It is half the size of earth. Mars has about a third of the earth’s gravity, which means that you can jump three times as high.
5. In the 1970′s, the Viking orbiter took pictures of what appear to be giant faces and pyramids carved into the planet’s surface in the Cydonia region.
The biggest looks like the Sphinx of Egypt and is 2,000 feet high and miles across. While this discovery has gotten UFOlogists excited, scientists say they are just eroded mesas. Many still believe that the faces are too symmetrical to be natural, and that they are evidence of ancient alien civilizations.
6. Mars has some of the wildest weather in the solar system.
It has tremendous wind storms, dust storms and small tornadoes (dust devils). In 2001, a huge dust storm covered the entire planet for several earth days. Scientists are puzzled that a planet with so little atmosphere could have raging storms such as these. They don’t know what causes them, but there are more storms when Mars is close to the sun. When it’s on the farther end of its orbit, there are icy clouds made of carbon dioxide and dust. This is also strange because Mars has no surface water.
7. There has been a search for life on mars, and also a search for water.
After years of studying every crack on the planet’s surface for evidence of water, scientists have finally found it. The Phoenix mission found that there are huge deposits of ice underneath the planet’s surface.
8. Mars has two moons, and one of it is going to crash into it.
The moon Phobos orbits dangerously close to Mars’ atmosphere. Someday, the gravitational pull with smash the moon to bits. The debris will stay in Mars’ orbit, making a ring like the rings of Saturn. Eventually, it will rain down on Mars. Scientists don’t know when this will happen, but predict it will be in the next 50 years.
9. Only 1/3 of all the missions to Mars have been successful.
So many missions have disappeared that it has led scientists to wonder if something strange is happening. They refer to Mars as the “Bermuda Triangle” of the solar system.
Viking 1 and 2 is the first ever Mars mission to have a lander successfully reach the surface of Mars. Viking 1 (Orbiter and Lander) launched on August 20, 1975 while Viking 2 launched September 9, 1975. They successfully arrived in Mars on June 19, 1976 (Viking 1) and August 7, 1976 (Viking 2).
The Viking lander 1 positioned itself on Chryse Planitia (the plains of Gold) while viking 2 landed on utopia Planitia. The landers were successful in collecting samples and experimenting on the Martian soil in search for even the most minute sign of life. It was on these experiments that scientists discovered how harsh the Martian soil is. They concluded that the solar ultraviolet radiation, the dryness of the soil and its oxidizing nature makes it impossible for any living organism to form in the soil.
The mission was planned to last for 90 days but both the landers and orbiters stayed operational for long periods of time. Viking 1 orbiter continued its mission for 4 years and 1,489 orbits and Viking 2 orbiter didn’t stop communicating until July 25, 1978. The Landers, which were powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators continued their mission until November 11, 1982 (Viking Lander 1) and April 11, 1980 (Viking Lander 2).
- Search for traces of life.
- Understand the composition of the Martian surface.
- Get as much image of Mars to further look for traces of life.
The Viking missions provided a great amount of information about Mars. Pictures of Valleys, Gullies, Craters, Dunes and the 2 Moons were all gathered by the Viking. The Viking was also able to map out the Martian surface enabling scientists to differentiate the southern and northern hemispheres of Mars.
- Infrared Thermal Mapper (IRTM) – Used to measure the temperature of the atmosphere and the Martian surface.
- Orbiter Imager – Used to collect images.
- Mars Atmospheric Water Detector (MAWD) – Used to measure solar infrared radiation reflected from the surface through the atmosphere and to the orbiter.
- Orbiter Radio Science – Used to study the Martian gravitational field, the structure of the solar corona and the plasma in interplanetary space.
- When the Vikings 1 and 2 launched nobody had an idea what the Martian surface looked like, we had pictures but they are far from the surface so nobody really knew what to expect and if the landers can land safely. The whole nation jumped in joy when it was officially announced that we landed on Mars safely.
- The Vikings provided measurements of the Martian atmosphere and the surface.
- The Viking completed the very first Entry, Descent and Landing on Mars.
- The findings of Viking were used to guide future orbiter and lander missions.
The Viking was the pride of all human race. It began a new age of discovery, we were well on our way to discovering and understanding another planet. To date, Martian missions are still in full swing. Different landers and orbiters have been sent and a large amount of data has been collected. Water, which is a precursor of life, has been found and is evident all around the planet. Anytime now, we will be able to finish what the Viking started and fulfill its mission – Find life in Mars.
For decades we have been searching for traces of life on Mars. Why? Probably out of curiosity, scientists know that the universe is so large that it is quite impossible that we are the only ones living in it. Considering our choices and the vastness of the universe or even our solar system, Mars is the only planet that we can easily reach and observe.
Before we were able to take a single picture of Mars, many of us already believe that little green men lived in Mars. Many movies showed Martians as such, they were highly advanced in terms of technology and quite friendly in nature. But all these beliefs were wiped out when Mariner 4 took a picture of Mars and it showed dry sandy surfaces with lots of craters just like the moon.
Hopes were down but the government decided to give it one more shot by sending the Vikings to further study the planet. The Viking took 16,000 images of Mars and atmospheric studies that suggests water in Ancient Mars.
From then on, the quest for life on Mars became the quest for liquid water on Mars. Since there seemed to be life wherever there is water, scientists believe that if we can only find minute traces of water in Mars in will not be surprising if we find life. Now, life doesn’t have to be multi-cellular organisms, a single celled organism is enough to prove that life exists or existed on Mars and it would also be enough to prove that we are not alone in the universe.
Since then different missions have been successfully feeding us data about Mars. Currently, the Phoenix Mars Lander discovered water ice on Martian soil, these bits and pieces of information is getting us closer to our goal of finding liquid water on Mars and eventually life.
Here is great 5 part video that discusses our quest for life or water on Mars