Humankind is getting closer to the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars for scientific research, and then eventually colonization later down the line. But time and time again, missions exploring the red planet have continued to fascinate us in ways we never thought imaginable.
Mars is a terrestrial planet just like the Earth, albeit a much smaller one with a less robust atmosphere. In fact, Mars has approximately the same surface area as all of Earth’s continents combined. Underneath Mars’ bright red surface is a core comprised of iron, nickel, and sulfur, which some scientists think may have produced a magnetic field that, at one point, protected the red planet from the Sun’s radiation.
Mars’ rustic red color comes from the planet’s high surface iron content, which reacts with the small amounts of oxygen in its atmosphere. Mars’ surface is also riddled with various types of features that tell a captivating story of flowing water and rich, potentially habitable conditions. These findings have piqued so much interest, in fact, that scientists are preparing to capture surface samples for analysis with the Mars 2020 rover.
Mars is also home to Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the solar system that stands up to three times taller than Mt. Everest here on Earth. Some scientists believe that Mars’ weaker gravitational pull may have contributed to Olympus Mons being able to grow to such heights.
While Mars looks like a dry and desolate wasteland today, scientific missions have revealed that frozen water exists at the plant’s polar ice caps, and it’s hoped that we might be able to utilize this frozen water to create oxygen and rocket fuel if astronauts ever make it to Mars as planned. This same water could have potentially supported life in the planet’s distant past, but this has yet to be confirmed…