6 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Mars

On January 3, 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit" safely landed on the Red Planet. In one of the longest and most successful missions in NASA history, Spirit would survey Martian geography for the next seven years. Here are six things you didn’t know about Mars.

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It Takes Eight Months to Travel to Mars A trip to the Red Planet takes around eight months, which is slightly longer than astronauts stay on the International Space Station. There would then be the mission on the planet itself, before another eight months to return home (provided it is not a “one way” trip). For comparison, the Apollo missions took around three days to reach the moon. The mission would take place when Mars is somewhere near its closest to Earth, and the closest it has ever been was in 2003 when they were “just” 34.8 million miles apart.

Mars Is Much Smaller Than Earth Compared to Earth, Mars is a tiny Styrofoam ball, with a diameter just over half of ours and one-tenth of our mass.. The gravity on Mars would be a nightmare for potential colonists. The gravity on Mars is .38 that of Earth, so a 100-pound person would only weigh 38 pounds on Mars. It is a desert planet, the soil is toxic and the average temperature is a frigid -81 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A Martian Year Lasts Just Under Two Earth Years Mars makes an orbit around the Sun in 687 Earth days (as compared to the 365 days for our home planet), so people would have a lot fewer birthday celebrations. A day on Mars is 24.6 hours compared to Earth's 24. However, a day on the planet Venus is 5,832 hours long, which would be 243 days on Earth.

Mars Has Two Potato Shaped Moons Earth’s moon is simply called “the Moon,” which isn’t nearly as nice as Phobos and Deimos, the names given to Mars’s satellites. Phobos means "fear" and Deimos means "dread," but poor little Phobos is being slowly torn apart by the tidal forces on Mars and will be gone in only 50 million years. Both of the moons circling Mars are potato-shaped and are much smaller than our own moon, but Phobos seems a good landing site, and might be a good place for astronauts to visit to prepare for a future settlement on Mars.''

Mars Has The Tallest Mountain In The Solar System The tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, is 29,029 feet tall. However, Olympus Mons on Mars is 72,000 feet in height, making it the tallest mountain by far on any planet in the solar system. It also has a diameter of around 370 miles, making it roughly the same size as the state of Arizona.

The Carbon Dioxide-Filled Atmosphere Is Not a Breath of Fresh Air Since the atmosphere on Mars is more than 95 percent carbon dioxide with a dab of argon and nitrogen tossed in, you would suffocate if you tried to breathe there. If you gave it a try, the experience would likely be similar to that in Arnold Schwarzenegger's hit, Total Recall. With your first breath, the tears on your eyeballs, saliva in your mouth, and water in your lungs will immediately evaporate. Although you wouldn’t die immediately, you might wish you would.