Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the seventh largest:
orbit: 227,940,000 km (1.52 AU) from Sun
Mars (Greek: Ares) is the god of War. The planet probably got this name due to its red color; Mars is sometimes referred to as the Red Planet. (An interesting side note: the Roman god Mars was a god of agriculture before becoming associated with the Greek Ares; those in favor of colonizing and terraforming Mars may prefer this symbolism.) The name of the month March derives from Mars.
Mars has been known since prehistoric times. It is still a favorite of science fiction writers as the most favorable place in the Solar System (other than Earth!) for human habitation. But the famous "canals" "seen" by Lowell and others were, unfortunately, just as imaginary as Barsoomian princesses.
The first spacecraft to visit Mars was Mariner 4 in 1965. Several others followed including Mars 2, the first spacecraft to land on Mars and the two Viking landers in 1976. Ending a long 20 year hiatus, Mars Pathfinder landed successfully on Mars on July 4 1997.
Mars' orbit is significantly elliptical. One result of this is a temperature variation of about 30 C at the subsolar point between aphelion and perihelion. This has a major influence on Mars' climate. While the average temperature on Mars is about 218 °K (-55 °C, -67 °F), Martian surface temperatures range widely from as little as 140 °K (-133 °C, -207 °F) at the winter pole to almost 300 °K (27 °C, 80 °F) on the dayside during summer.
Though Mars is much smaller than Earth, its surface area is about the same as the land surface area of Earth.
Copyright ©2000 Joel Goodman, DDS. All rights reserved worldwide.