1. The Egyptians gave Mars its first recorded name: Har dècher (“The red one”). The Babylonians called it Nergal (“Star of death”). The Greeks and Romans named the planet after their respective gods of war, Ares and Mars. The Hebrews called it Ma’adim, or “One who blushes.” Many ancient people believed the reddish color came from actual blood on the planet.f 2. The month of March is named after Mars.a 3. The symbol for Mars looks like a shield and a spear from the war god Mars/Ares. It is also the symbol for the male sex.a 4. The ancient Greeks thought that Earth was the center of the universe and that Mars was one of the five traveling stars that revolved around it.f 5. Egyptians called Mars the “the backward traveler” because Mars appeared to move backwards through the zodiac every 25.7 months.a | | |
Mars gets its red color from the iron oxide (rust) in its soil| |
6. Mars’ red color is due to iron oxide, also known as rust, and has the consistency of talcum powder. Literally, the metallic rocks on Mars are rusting.b 7. The atmosphere (mostly made up of carbon dioxide) on Mars is so thin that water cannot exist in liquid form—it can exist only as water vapor or ice. Liquid water is considered for many scientists to be the “holy grail” of Mars.b 8. No human could survive the low pressure of Mars. If you went to Mars without an appropriate space suit, the oxygen in your blood would literally turn into bubbles, causing immediate death.a 9. If you were driving 60 mph in a car, it would take 271 years and 221 days to get to Mars from Earth.a 10. Mars lacks an ozone layer; therefore, the surface of Mars is bathed in a lethal dose of radiation every time the sun rises.e 11. Mars contains the largest labyrinth of intersecting canyons in the solar system called the Noctis Labyrinthus (“labyrinth of the night”).e 12. Mars has the largest and most violent dust storms in our entire solar system. These storms often have winds topping 125 mph, can last for weeks, and can cover the entire planet. They usually occur when Mars is closest to the sun.e 13. Only 1/3 of spacecrafts sent to Mars have been successful, leading some scientists to wonder if there is a Martian “Bermuda triangle” or a “Great Galactic Ghoul” that likes to eat spacecraft.g | | |
The “Face“ on Mars: 1976 Viking view (left); 2001 MGS view (right)| |
14. In 1976, Viking I photographed a mesa on Mars that had the appearance of a human face. Many individuals and organizations interested in extraterrestrial life argued that intelligent beings created the “Face.” Though the Mars Global Surveyor (1997-2006) revealed that the “Face” was likely an optical illusion, believers in the “Face” charged NASA with stripping data from the new image before it was released to the public.e 15. Mars has an enormous canyon named Valles Marineris (Mariner Valley) which is an astounding 2,500 miles long and four miles deep. As long as the continental United States, this gigantic canyon was likely formed by the tectonic “cracking” of Mars’ crust and is the longest known crevice in the solar system.e 16. During the Renaissance, Mars played a central role in one of the most important and fiercest intellectual battles in the history of Western civilization: whether Earth is the center of the universe. Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) coherently explained that Mars seems to move backwards across the sky because Earth overtakes Mars in its orbit around the sun.a 17. Mars was formed about 4.5 billion years ago and is about 4,000 miles wide (half the diameter of Earth). Because so much of Earth is covered by oceans, the amount of land surface of the two planets is nearly equal.e Mars is also much lighter than Earth, with only 1/10 of its mass. It’s the fourth planet from the sun and is the last terrestrial (rocky) planet (the outer planets are all gaseous).a 18. The Earth environment most...