General Mars FAQ

 

Why is Mars red?

Who discovered Mars, and when?

Is the face on Mars real?

Are there pyramids on Mars?

What is the gravity on Mars?

How long does it take to travel to Mars?

Why does Mars sometimes appear to go backwards in the sky?

How far is Mars from Earth?

What is the lowest elevation on Mars?

 

 

QUESTION:

Why is Mars red?

 

ANSWER:

Oxygen from water and from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere combined with minerals, mainly iron, in the rocks and dust. It is this oxidised iron, the rust, that gives Mars its red colour.

 

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QUESTION:

Who discovered Mars, and when?

 

ANSWER:

Mars has been known since humans developed the intelligence to look at the night sky. Its reddish colour and movement in the sky, different from the stars, drew extra attention to it. Throughout history, different cultures gave names to the planet, but it is the Roman "Mars" that we use today. Other names for the Red Planet are: Al-Qahira, Ares, Auqakuh, Bahram, Harmakhis, Her Descher, Hrad, Huo Hsing, Kasei, Maíadim, Maja, Mamers, Mangala, Mawrth, Nirgal, Shalbatnu, Simud, Tiu.

 

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QUESTION:

What is the gravity on Mars?

 

ANSWER:

Mars' gravity is 38 percent of Earth's - .38G. This corresponds to an acceleration of about 3.75 meters per second squared or 12.2 ft per second squared.

 

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QUESTION:

Is the face on Mars real?

 

ANSWER:

The "face" is nothing more than a hill that has been eroded by billions of years of Martian winds. The original Viking orbiter image showed the hill illuminated from an angle that highlighted certain features, creating the impression of a face.

 

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QUESTION:

Are there pyramids on Mars?

 

ANSWER:

Nearby to the "face" seen in a Viking orbiter image of part of the Cydonia region is a group of hills that some people, including those who see the "face" as artificial, have interpreted as pyramids and, therefore, "further evidence" of intelligent life on Mars. The "pyramids" are just hills.

 

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QUESTION:

How long does it take to travel to Mars?

 

ANSWER:

Typically an unmanned probed takes 9 to 11 months to reach Mars on a minimum energy, fuel-efficient trajectory. It is hoped that crewed missions can have the time reduced to 6 months (in each direction) in order to minimise the time spent in micro gravity and the exposure to solar and cosmic radiation.

 

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QUESTION:

Why does Mars sometimes appear to go backwards in the sky?

 

ANSWER:

Earth's orbit is smaller, and we move at a greater speed, than does Mars. So, as Earth comes around on the inside track and catches up with Mars, the Red Planet, when seen against the background stars, appears to stop, then move backwards. As Earth carries on past, Mars appears to stop again, and then resume its travel in the normal direction. This apparent 'reversal' is common to all the planets outside Earth.

 

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QUESTION:

How far is Mars from Earth?

 

ANSWER:

Because Earth and Mars take different periods of time to orbit the Sun (365.25 days for the Earth, and 686 days for Mars), the distance between the two planets varies. Mars also has an elliptical orbit that moves in and out from the Sun by 43 million kilometres every orbit. So, at their closest, Earth and Mars can be no less than 54 million km apart, while at their most distant they are as much as 400 million km apart.

 

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QUESTION:

What is the lowest elevation on Mars?

 

ANSWER:

The lowest known elevation on Mars is 8 kilometres below the zero datum line (topographic "sea level" on Mars) and located in the Hellas basin, a large, ancient impact basin, over 2,100 kilometres wide, in the southern hemisphere.

 

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