To Mars and Back: Celebrating the Red Planet Day!
A long time ago (about 3 or 4 billion years), Earth and Mars were so similar, they seemed like siblings! Even though one appeared blue in colour and the other a little rusty, they were both shrouded in warm and thick temperature and showcased several similarities. While Mars and Earth are very different planets when it comes to size and atmosphere, the geologic processes on the two planets are surprisingly alike. On Mars, we see volcanoes, canyons, and impact basins much like the ones we see on Earth.
Over a period of time, due to certain atmospheric changes, planet Mars stopped changing while the Earth continued to evolve. This made everyone super curious about the rusty red planet. Several space missions were carried out to understand the planet but they failed, proving again and again that space exploration was not easy. After years of failed attempts, on November 28th 1964, Spacecraft Mariner 4 became the first human-made object to successfully fly by Mars. A 228 days long mission, it brought the spacecraft within 6,118 miles of Mars on July 14th, 1965 and provided the world its first close–up images of the planet while answering many scientific questions. Since then, Mars exploration has undergone a renaissance with data from several orbiters and landing missions, developing a revolutionary new view of Mars as an Earth-like planet.
In order to commemorate the successful launch of Mariner 4, November 28th is celebrated as the Red Planet Day. As we celebrate 53 years of ‘Red Planet day’ this year, let’s explore and learn more about the planet Mars and its environment.
So put on your red coloured clothes and let’s take a fun trip to the red planet with these lesser known facts:
- The planet Mars has actually been known by several names throughout history. As early as the 400 B.C, the Babylonians began tracking the planet and called it Nergal (the king of conflicts). Later on the Greeks named the planets as Ares, after the God of War, which the Romans also adopted years later.
- Mars has 15% of the Earth’s volume and just over 10% of the Earth’s mass. The Martian surface gravity is just 37% of the Earth’s, which means, you can leap nearly three times higher on Mars than on Earth!
The planet is home to the largest shield volcano-Olympus Mons in the solar system with a height of 21 km and a diameter of 600 km.
- The minimum distance of the Earth from the red planet is 54.6 million kilometres; close enough for us to gape at its reddish beauty on a clear night sky.
- Space researchers have estimated that in the next 20-40 million years Mars’ largest moon Phobos will be torn apart by gravitational forces which could lead to formation of a beautiful ring around the planet, lasting up to 100 million years.
- What’s most exciting is that man may even make it to Mars soon! Yes, Elon Musk and SpaceX have proposed the development of Mars transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate the eventual colonization of the planet. NASA is also making similar claims, saying that a manned mission may be possible in the next 25 years. This could be another huge leap for mankind, turning science fiction into reality.
- This week NASA’s InSight spacecraft successfully landed on the Red Planet! Insight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) won’t be looking for life on Mars. It will help study its insides to get a better understanding of how a planet’s starting materials make it more or less likely to support life.
As one of our closest and most familiar neighbors, the Red Planet has served as the source of legends since the first storytellers slept under the stars. We understand Mars to a degree that we have not even come close to on any other planets or moons. This Red Planet Day, we urge you to follow updates on Mars closely and keep your curiosity alive!
Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself.
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