The fourth planet from our sun, a cold, dusty land, of deserts & volcanoes, ice caps and canyons.
"Mars has been flown by, orbited, smacked into, radar examined, and rocketed onto... as well as bounced upon, rolled over, shovelled, drilled into, baked and even blasted...
Still to come... being stepped on."
- Buzz Aldrin
Mars is the only planet in our solar system solely inhabited by robots, robots that since 1971 have been our eyes on the ground... exploring the terrain, day in mon out, for many sols... laying the foundations for brave humans to one day venture into that harsh, inhospitable landscape.
Make no mistake, space is hard, and Mars is very hard! But well worth it! Mars offers us so much... a chance to learn about our own planet and our place in the Universe. It also offers us all the ingredients we need to live and work there.
Humans have long recognised that it has the potential to be a permanently inhabited new world for humankind to expand into. A new base from which to venture even further outward, over time, travelling deeper into the solar system.... and perhaps one day beyond it, to explore new worlds and all the mysteries they hold, as we evolve to become a truly multi-planetary species.
ATMOSPHERE ON MARS
Highlights from a Nov, 5, 2015, NASA briefing on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission's findings on the Martian atmosphere.
MAVEN has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.
Long ago much of Mars’ surface was covered in oceans, rivers and lakes. We know this because we can see features such as huge dried-out river valleys across Mars. Landers and rovers exploring the surface have also found minerals that can only form in liquid water.
Liquid water cannot exist on the surface today. However, using MARSIS - Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding - a “ground-penetrating radar” designed to search for undergroundwater scientists discovered a particularly bright radar reflection, 20 km-wide, which they believe to be a large lake of liquid water.
In “The Martian,” Mark Watney uses the Martian soil to grow potatoes in the controlled environment of the “Hab.” In reality, the soil on Mars actually does have the nutrients plants would need to survive on Mars!
There may not be the right amount of nutrients depending on where astronauts land on the Red Planet, so fertilizers may need to be added to the soil. The perchlorates in the soil would be leached out and separated from the water.
NASA is developing a simulant, a replication of Mars soil, to better understand how it can be used for plant growth and other purposes.