Today many people know Mars as the red planet which may be the key to a bright new future of humanity. The story of Mars began about 4.5 billion years ago when gas and dust swirl together to form the 4th planet from the sun. It is the 2nd smallest planet in the solar system. The composition of Mars is rocky. The colour of Mars inspired the ancient Romans to name the planet after their god of war.
Common Questions About Mars
Ever wondered why the colour of Mars is red? It is because the core of Mars consists of metals like iron, nickel, and sulphur. Their presence created a magnetic field around the planet during the beginning period. The crust of Mars which was originally made of iron reacted with the trace oxygen in the atmosphere creating rust giving the planet its reddish colour.
1. How Long Does it Take to Get to Mars?
Both the Earth and Mars are orbiting the Sun, and they always have been at their own pace and path. In the same amount of time, Earth makes more journeys around the sun than Mars. So, if you launch your spacecraft at the perfect time to transfer to Mars, the Earth would move out of that position. So, a perfect return cannot be expected. Then you either have to wait until they align in similar positions again or you have to choose the best path available to return.
It takes approximately 7-9 months to travel from earth to Mars with today’s technology. Once they reach there they will have to wait for another 18 months orbiting Mars until the exact Hohmann transfer to save fuel. Hohmann Transfer is a way where a spacecraft can transfer itself from one orbit to another. It is the most efficient way to save fuel and change orbits. After that while returning they need 9 more months to travel back from Mars to earth. The total time required would be approximately 3 years to Mars and back.
2. How Far is Mars From the Earth?
The distance between Earth and Mars varies. This is because it is affected because of the revolution of both the planets around the Sun. So the distance differs according to the position of these planets. When both Mars and Earth are closest to each other the distance between them is more than 56,000,000 km. When they’re furthest from each other the distance between them is more than 400,000,000 km. This makes the average distance between these two planets to be 228,000,000 km.
3. What Time is it on Mars?
For now, the astronauts on Mars have to figure out the time every day but so will we if one day we go there or do some business there.
Time is figured based on sundials and the shadow in the earth. When the shadow is straight behind when we face the sun, we can call that noon. For this sun has to be straight to you or at 0 degrees. Then 180 degrees is midnight. So, because Earth is round, it is always 12:00 at day and night somewhere.
Similarly, when the shadow is straight behind you you can say that it’s noon.
Let’s assume it’s 10:30 pm Saturday in London and it’s 10:30 at point x on Mars. This does not mean when it’s 6:00 am in London the point x on Mars will have the same time as it differs slightly due to the different date of rotation and a different orbit. Had we been on Mars maybe the 5 minutes we wanted after we wake up would not affect our schedule.
There is however a technical difference. Various countries send their satellites and it differs according to the origin of the spacecraft. Russian rockets were sent on Russian time in their time zone and the American spacecraft were made in America’s time zone.
4. How Many Days Is a Year on Mars?
Time has many units it can be measured into. Most of it is done through the rotation and revolution of a planet. All the planets have a different orbit to revolve on. Every planet has its rate of rotation according to its weight and distance from the sun. Similarly, time on mars is divided according to their rotation rate and time required to orbit the sun in respect to earth’s time. The days on Mars are only 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than that of an Earth day. They are termed Sols or Solar days. However as they have a bigger orbit to revolve in, Mars has 668 sols (approx: 687 earth days) in a year.
5. How Long Has Curiosity Been on Mars?
When Curiosity the rover was launched from Earth on November 26, 2011, it was supposed to be a two-year mission. Now however it has been extended indefinitely.
Rovers can carry on even after their planned lifecycle has been exceeded. The Opportunity rover, for example, was able to stay operational for 5111 sols, 55 times more than its designed lifespan. It was helped with continual recharging using solar power, hibernation during storms to save power. It exceeded its operating plan by 14 years, 46 days (earth time).
Since landing on August 5, 2012, Mars has been the home of Curiosity for 3138 sols (3224 days) which is 8 years, 302 days on earth till today (June 4, 2021).
6. How Many Moons Does Mars Have?
Most of the planets in our solar system have more than one moon. Mars also has two moons but they together are smaller than our moon. They are named Phobos and Deimos for the sons of the Greek god of war, Ares.
Our moon looks as big as the sun as the moon is closer to us. Being reflective, a full moon night would be fairly bright. It also has a great effect on the huge water bodies. Mars has two moons and Phobos is much closer than our moon is to Earth but Phobos is tiny and not very reflective. Deimos is smaller and far so it might not have much effect on mars.
If we had two moons the orbit being naturally unstable, one would catch up with the other and collide after some time. Had they coexisted, the tidal forces would be more than doubled roughly, resulting in much higher tides.
Today Mars is dry and cold with temperatures as low as -225 degrees F but billions of years ago the planet is believed to have been warmer and with a water surface. Lake beds and river valleys indicated that water bodies were present. Water still exists on Mars but in the form of polar ice caps. Life on another planet may well be out of reach for the near future but if any planet can give us hope it’s Mars.