In his hit song “Rocket Man”, musical legend Elton John aptly remarks that “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids / In fact it’s cold as hell.” The average surface temperature of Mars is 220 Kelvin, or about -64 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, I’m not sure about hell, but that’s definitely too cold to be raising any kids.
For centuries, us humans have wondered about our next-door neighbor in the solar system: the red planet of Mars. Mars’ semi-major axis is about 1.5 times that of Earth, and Mars’ radius is only slightly more than half the size of Earth’s radius. Mars is the last of the four inner planets and the five terrestrial worlds; however, Earth is ten times more massive than Mars.
Mars is a truly fascinating world; from humongous volcanoes to polar caps of dry ice, the planet is a wonder to behold. Mars is too cold for liquid water today, but we have found evidence to suggest that Mars was a wet planet at some point in its history. Even if water was still around, human beings could not survive on Mars without a spacesuit due to low air pressure, freezing temperatures, little breathable oxygen, and the lack of an atmospheric ozone layer.
Though no human has step foot on Mars (yet), we have “visited” our neighboring planet with help from exploration rovers. There have been four successful rovers; in fact, the Opportunity mission was only recently terminated after working for 15 years and covering a total distance of just over 25 miles. As of now, the Curiosity rover is still active, and NASA is planning to launch a new mission in 2020.