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Planets & Astronomy

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What Do We Need to Know About Mars in Order to Land a Rover There?

The Question



•Mars is the fourth planet from the sun at a distance of 228,000,000 kilometers (141,637,725 million miles.)•The closest distance from Earth to Mars is called the Perihelion. This distance equals 206,655,215 kilometers (128,409,598 miles.)•The farthest distance from Earth to Mars is called the Aphelion. This distance equals 249,232,432 kilometers (154,865,853 miles.) •The surface area of Mars is 144,371,391 km2 (55,742,106 square miles.)

What do we need to know about Mars to land a rover there?Well, you can't just blindly land a rover on Mars and hope for the best. There is a lot of planning and calculating involved. You need to know as much information as possible about things like the distance from Earth to Mars and when the best and easiest time to travel to Mars is. You need to be knowledgable about the surface conditions and terrain of Mars in order to pick a landing sight let alone actually land a rover there! Even the toughest machinery can be badly damaged by the many obstacles on the Martian surface, such as jagged rocks. One should also know about the climate and weather conditions on Mars in order to keep a rover and all of its instruments in good working condition for however long it's programmed to stay on Mars. Even before all of this happens, you need to know about the atmosphere surrounding Mars. The topics covered here, (and more important information not included here), are all things imperative to succesfully landing and maintaining a rover on Mars.

Climate, Surface Conditions and Terrain


• Mars’s thin atmosphere is mostly made up of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon.• Mars doesn't allow liquid water to exist on its surface for long due to its cold temperatures and thin atmosphere. Evidence of water existing on Mars many years ago has been discovered frozen in the Martian poles as permafrost and hidden in deep underground springs.• At the equator during the summer, the temperature on Mars can reach a high of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or a low of -225 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius.)•Mars’s climate changes majorly during the year. Much like Earth, Mars experiences seasons due to the tilt of its rotational axis. Because Mars’s orbit is slightly elliptical, it’s distance from the sun changes which affects the Martian seasons and their lengths. • Volcanoes, impacts, crustal movement, dust storms and other atmospheric effects have altered Mars’s solid surface. • The gravity on Mars is 0.375 of Earth. You would experience 62.5% less gravity on Mars than on Earth.

The Moons

• Mars has two small moons named Phobos and Deimos. • Both moons are described as lumpy, heavily-cratered and covered in dust and loose rocks. • Appearing to be made of carbon-rich rock mixed with ice, Phobos and Deimos may be captured asteroids!

Video 1. Is Mars Really Red Hot?

Figure 2. Phobos: the Larger of Mars's Two Moons

Figure 1. Mars: The Red Planet

Figure 3. The Atmosphere of Mars

Figure 4. Mars: Close Up

Search For Life on Mars:Astronomy


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