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Mars, Phobos
Farid Lopez
Phys 1040-11
Mars is the 4th planet from our Sun in our solar system. It is extremely difficult to
note when Mars may have been originally discovered in the sky since it can be seen
without any sort of aide. To add to this, many astronomers and civilizations, for that
matter, have documented Mars in their sky watching. The Romans named it Mars after
their god of war; the Greeks had also named it after their god of war, Ares. The Egyptians
and Chinese of old named it according to its color, “Her Desher” or “the red one” and
“the fire star” respectively [1]. Many civilizations based the color of Mars in order to
name it. Since it was red compared to other stars near by, many ancient astronomers
referred to it as a war star or blood star and it hence was associated in that matter. For a
long period of time many astronomers of old believed that Mars was home to another
civilization or could at least hold live on its surface. This believe came from what they
saw with the technology they had at the time. Mainly from the observations of an Italian
astronomer named Galileo Galilei. Many “canals” were once seen and believed to be the
intelligent work of advance or at least a civilized people. This was a belief made famous
by Percival Lowell in the early 1900s [2].
Mars is not the only celestial body to receive a name after deities of war. In 1877
an American astronomer named Asaph Hall spent a whole week hunting for the moon or
moons of Mars. Towards the end of his weeklong hunt, he almost gave up since nothing
was discovered until he saw Deimos. That discovery gave him the will to continue
looking and after six days from the discovery of Deimos, he discovered Mars’ second
moon, Phobos. Both these moons are named after the Greek god of war Ares, Deimos
means “fear” and Phobos means “rout”[1].
In 1548 Nicolas Copernicus was the first astronomer to label Mars as a planet in
the Heliocentric theory he published. Before this point many just assumed that it had a
role in our solar system abut had not officially given it a place. This and the findings of
Asaph Hall made it officially our closest neighbor in our solar system.
Dimensions and make up
Mars has an orbit of 227,940,00 km or 1.52 AU from the Sun this makes it the
fourth planet from the Sun. Mars is also the seventh largest planet in our solar system
with a diameter of 6,794 km and a mass of 6.421e23 kg. Compared to other planets,
Mars’ orbit is significant elliptical [2]. It takes Mars a little over 24 hours to rotate on its
axis. A Martian year is equal to 687 Earth days; nearly double the amount of days in an
Earth year. Its perihelion is 1.381 AU and its aphelion is 1.666 AU. Mars’ average orbit
velocity is at 53,858 MPH compared to Earth’s average orbit velocity of 66,610 MPH.
Mars’ surface gravity is at 12.2 ft/s2 , in other words if you weighed 100 lbs on Earth and
went to Mars you would only weigh 38 lbs, making those dream of being able to dunk on
an NBA hoop extremely easy [3].
The atmosphere of Mars is very thin and compromised of Carbon Dioxide,
Nitrogen and Argon; making it extremely difficult for water to remain on its surface. In
fact most of the atmosphere is made up Carbon Dioxide, about 95% of it, hence making it
an extremely hostile environment for humans to live on [3]. It is believe that at some
point in the past Mars had an electro magnetic field, however, today it does not and only
has certain areas that have strongly magnetized readings as compared to some areas on
Earth. Scientist believe that Mars has a possible inner core made up of iron, nickel and
sulfur. Then moving out to a liquid iron-sulfur core then moving out to its mantel and
final its crust [2]. The north and south poles of Mars are covered with dry ice and are
visible in picture taken from spacecrafts that have made the trip.
Both Phobos and Deimos are assumed to be made up of carbon-rich rock mixed
with ice. Compared to Earth’s moon, Phobos and Deimos are extremely small and very
irregular shaped. In fact it is believe that both moons are actually asteroid caught in Mars
gravitational pull and have not been able to pull themselves out or into a rounder shape.
In width, Phobos is the larger of the two moons, measuring in at 17 miles wide.
Compared to Deimos at just 9 miles wide, however both moons are riddled with craters
from meteor impacts despite their small size. It is estimated that in 50 million years,
Phobos will either smash into Mars or be pulled apart into smaller pieces forming a ring
around Mars [2].
Surface features
One of the best-known features about Mars is its famous Olympus Mons. It is
estimated that Olympus Mons is about three times larger than Mt. Everest, however,
unlike Olympus Mons, Mt. Everest still continues to grow [5]. Unlike Earth, Mars does
not have tectonic activity today. It is believed that in the past there was a form of
tectonics that included molten rock pushing up threw cracks in the crust creating large
volcanoes. Another notable feature of Mars is the Valles Merineris, a canyon that
stretches the distance between Los Angeles and New York and dwarfs the Arizona
Canyon [4].
On the surface Mars is much colder than Earth, at an average temperature of -80
degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperature varies depending on what part of the
planet you are on; the poles get -195 degrees Fahrenheit and the equator gets around 70
degrees Fahrenheit. This is due in part to the distance of Mars from the Sun and also
because of a proper green house effect to warm the planet [1]. Hellas Planitia is the
largest crater on Mars at 1,400 miles wide created almost 3 billion years ago. To
accompany this crater is also Tharsis, a huge bulge that is about 400 km across and 10 km
high [2].
Missions to Mars
1964 was the first year that a successful mission to Mars occurred; Mariner 4
launched on November 28 was able to make the voyage to the red planet to obtain the
first pictures of our neighbor. There have been 47 missions to Mars from the 1960s to
2013, however, not all were successful in reaching or even taking off ground to their final
destination. Mariner 4 was the first successful spacecraft to do a flyby mission to obtain
some measurements and photos and the first craft to be able to send that information back
to Earth. It was not until December 21 1967, after some damages receive through a debris
field that communications with the craft were stopped and the craft was left to orbit Mars
We have sent more crafts to Mars than our Moon and hence we have had in the
past a better detail surface map of Mars than our Moon. All the mission have been robot
or rover missions and there is the talk of sending colonist to Mars in the future to have the
first human exploration and colony establish on the Red Planet. However, there stills
needs to be more advancement in the travel field in order to perhaps have a better ethical
mission for humans to Mars. That is why future missions have been planed and are in the
process of being set up or launched to see what else can be learned from Mars.
Mars missions by year
1969/1971 and 1986/1988 are historical minimum
energy launch windows to Mars
note: for the purpose of this graph an orbiter carrying a lander is considered two missions [6]
There have been several rovers landed on Mars and some are still operational
even to this day, gathering data and sending it back to Earth in hope of further studying
the possibility of future life on Mars. Some future missions to Mars include Insight and
ExoMars, these will be a combination of landers, rovers and driller to further study the
make up of Mars.
Active missions at Mars
Personal thought
After researching Mars and its moons I cannot but think why the delay in some
aspects of exploration? It was in the ‘60s that we sent men to the Moon and now some 50
plus years later we cannot manage to figure out the best way to send a team there and
back? I wish that along with the exploration of Mars and other planets that we could also
put more interest and development of space travel. It seems that we are stuck in using
rockets and the same forms used in the past. Granted these are tested and proven ways to
be successful to travel but there must be more ways.
Governments speak of budgets and other issues that plague their space programs
and yet they may at times fail to see the benefits of space exploration and the impact the
discoveries would have on life here on Earth. I think that if they are given a budget then
some of that should be set aside to further pursue a better travel program and then further
promote the idea to the private business that are now starting to get involved in the space
travel and exploration programs. By making travel a better form, it would be easier to do
things like colonizing Mars or other planets in the future in a more ethical matter.
1. “Mars: Facts and information about the Red
2. “Mars”
“Mars: Overview”
4. “Mars”
5. “Mars' Olympus Mons 3 x Height of Mount Everest-The
Solar System's Most Massive Volcano”
6. “Mariner 4”