Mars exploration newsletter - ... Mars exploration Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. The...
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Mars exploration Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. The Romans named it after their god of war, befitting the red planet's bloody color. The bright rust color Mars is known for is due to iron-rich minerals in its rocky material covering bedrock. According to NASA, the iron minerals oxidize, or rust, causing the soil to look red! The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it can get to minus 195 degrees F near the poles during winter. The cold, thin atmosphere means liquid water likely cannot exist on the Martian surface for any length of time. The red planet is home to both the hightest mountain and the deepest, longest valley in the solar system. Olympus Mons is roughly 17 miles high, about three times as tall as Mount Everest, while the Valles Marineris system of valleys can go
as deep as 6 miles. Mars also has the largest volcanoe in the solar system, which is about 370 miles in diameter. Wide enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico. Many regions of Mars are flat, low-lying plains. The lowest of the northern plains are among the flattest, smoothest places in the solar system, potentially created by water that once flowed across the Martian surface. The number of crators on Mars varies dramatically
from place to place, depending on how old the surface is. Mars has polar ice caps. Vast deposits of what appears to be finely stacks of water ice and dust extend from the poles. Additional seasonal ice caps appear in the wintertime. These are made of solid carbon dioxide, also known as "dry ice," which has condensed from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
What did you learn about Mars when you were in school? Why are we so interested in space exploration?
Covered in Dust Mars is famous for its large, planet-wide dust storms. Mars has an atmosphere which is much thinner than the atomosphere on Earth, but still creates winds. When these winds pick up the fine, dry particles of dust on Mars, a dust storm can occur. Most dust storms cover an area for a few days and carry small particles of dust at speeds of 33 to 66 miles per hour. Sometimes, though rarely, dust storms on Mars can be
fierce enough to cover the entire planet in a dusty haze for weeks.
1 day on Mars = 1 Earth Day and 37 minutes (1 sol). 1 year on Mars = 687 Earth days!
An astronaut weighing 100 pounds on Earth will only weigh 38 pounds on Mars!
Since the earliest days of recorded history, the planet Mars has fascinated human beings. As early as 400 B.C., Babylonian astronomers noted its bright red
appearance in the night sky. The first person to watch Mars with a primitive telescope was Galileo Galilei, in 1564-1642. In the centuries after him, astronomers discovered its polar ice caps. In the 19th and 20th centuries, researchers believed they saw a network of long, straight canals on Mars, hinting at civilization, although later these often proved to be mistake interpretations of dark regions they saw. In the 1960's that changed when humans began using spacecraft missions to explore the solar system.
The first stages of Mars missions were flybys. In 1962, the Soviet Union attempted to launch a Mars probe called Sputnik 24, but the spacecraft failed to leave Earth's orbit. In 1964, NASA launched Mariner 3 to fly over Mars and send back images, but with complications, the spacecraft failed to reach Mars.
Do you remember any news stories about Sputnik 24? Was there a race to get into space between the U.S. and the Soviet Union?
NASA was successful in 1969 with Mariner 6 and 7. In addition to relaying many photographs, they were able to analyze the planet's surface and atmosphere using remote sensors. The next stage of Mars exploration focused on orbiting the planet for longer missions. In 1971, NASA's Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to enter and orbit a planet besides Earth. Also, it sent the first high resolution pictures taken of the two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Mariner 9 still remains in Mars's martian orbit. In late November 1971, the USSR spacecraft Mars 2 reached Mar's orbit but crashed in the landing. Mars 3 succesfully landed on Mar's surface on December 2, 1971, but it was only able to beam back images for about 20 seconds. The third and present stage of Mar's exploration has focused on landers and rovers. The U.S. orbiter/lander Viking I landed on Mars in July 1976. Viking II landed November 1976. Both Viking I and II conducted experiments for micro-
organisms, researched Martian weather and took panoramic images of the planet's surface. The first Martian surface rover, called Sojourner was delivered by the U.S. spacecraft Mars Pathfinder in December 1996. In October 2001, the U.S. Spacecraft Mars Odyssey entered Martian orbit. Odyssey discovered vast amounts of water beneath the Martian surface (within three feet). In 2003, NASA launched Spirit and Opportunity. Their mission was to explore different regions of the Martian
surface, and both found signs that water once flowed on the planet's surface. Although NASA lost communication with Spirit in 2010, Opportunity is still in operation. In 2011, NASA landed its rover named Mars Curiousity. It began to investigate Martian rocks to determine the geologic processes that created them and find out more about the present and past habitability of Mars. Among its finding is the first meteorite on the surface of the red planet. The rover is currently climbing Mount Sharp and studying the layers of deposition on the hill, to find evidence of ancient water activity.
Spacecraft Active on Mars: Surface: Curiosity Rover, Opportunity Rover, Insight Rover. Atmosphere: ExoMars, Trace Gas Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Orbiter Mission, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express and 2001 Mars Odyssey.
InSight Has Landed! InSight landed on Mars on November 26, 2018 at 2:52 pm. The entry, descent, and landing phase began when the spacecraft reached the Martian atmosphere going 12,300 mph about 80 miles above the surface, and ended with the lander safe and sound on the surface of Mars six minutes later. Insight was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California May 5, 2018. InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations. It is a Mars lander designed to give the red planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the "inner space" of Mars; its crust, mantle, and core. InSight has two missions: 1. Formation and Evolution: Understand the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets through investigation of the interior structure and process of Mars. 2. Tectonic Activity: Determine the present level of tectonic activity and
meteorite impact on Mars. The goal of InSight isn't to roam around the planet, but to stay still so it can carefully measure properties of the Martian interior. InSight has a heat probe that will burrow down as far as 16 feet to conduct experiments. InSight was not alone on this journey. It had two companions nicknamed "Wall-E" and "Eve." They are cubesats, which are miniaturized satellites that will transmit data about InSight as the spacecraft is landing. InSight is designed to last for at least two Earth years, to
track changes in the Martian interior through at least one cycle of the seasons. InSight is solar powered and within 10 seconds of landing on the Martian soil, it immediately got to work! The instruments were engaged, establishing a direct-to-Earth signal while taking photos of the landing site!
What do you think they will discover on Mars? How do you think discoveries on Mars will help us here
on Earth? Why is Mars exploration important?
Communication on Mars is a bit tricky. Sometimes Mars will be on the same side of the sun, other times it will be on the opposite side. The distance between the Earth and Mars varies between 50 million miles to 235 million miles. What this means is when Mars is nice and close to Earth, signals to Mars will take around four minutes. When Mars is at the opposite end of the sun once a year, this takes a little more time. At this distance, it takes a little over twenty minutes for a signal to be reached. Imagine talking to someone on Mars and having to wait twenty minutes for a response!
How Long does it take for the signal from the InSight spacecraft on Mars to get back to Earth?
Engaging Questions! 1. Scientists say Mars was once like Earth. What do you think happened to the planet? 2. Do you think we will ever live on Mars? 3. If you had a ticket to go to Mars, would you go? 4. Do you think there is life on Mars right now? 5. When do you think humans will live on Mars? 6. What will humans have to do to live on Mars?
Beyond the Newsletter! Movies about Mars! A wonderful movie to watch is "The Martian". An astronaut is left on Mars and has to figure out how to survive. The movie is as close to scientifically possible if it were ever to happen in real life. Also, the National Geographic series "Mars." The story is the quest to colonize Mars as told from the perspective of the fictitious crew...but includes documentary information about past exploration, real-life interviews of crew and their mission, scientists and engineers about the difficulties that the crew might face on a journey to and living on Mars.
Curious Dragonfly LLC Trina Terrell www.curioiusdragonfly.com 303.903.5319