Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and Mars is the fourth. The gravity on Mars is about 37% Earth’s gravity. This means if you were standing on Mars you could jump almost three times as high as you can jump on earth Earth. Mars is the home to both the largest known volcano in the Solar System. The volcano is called Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is 16 miles high, which makes it two and a half times taller than Mt. Everest. That’s tall! Mars is also home to one of the larger canyons in the Solar System, That canyon, called Valles Marineris, 20 times longer than the Grand Canyon and six miles deep in some places.
The Hubble telescope, also pictured here, is in orbit about 350 miles above our home planet. Launched in 1990 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Hubble telescope has helped astronomers learn many new things about the miraculous universe that surrounds us. The Hubble has taken millions of great photos, including many close-ups of our next-door planet. But dome of the best pictures of Mars have come from spacecraft that have actually landed on Mars.
In 1976, NASA’s Viking Project was the first mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet. Two identical spacecraft, each consisting of a lander and an orbiter, were built. Each orbiter-lander pair flew together and entered Mars orbit; the landers then separated and landed the planet’s surface. Since then, we’ve sent numerous spacecraft to Mars, and we’re learning more and more about the planet.
During your lifetime, we may actually send human beings to Mars. And who knows? Maybe the first person to step foot on Mars will be you!
Fun Fact: It takes Mars 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun. That means that a Martian year is almost twice as long as an Earth year.
Fun Fact: In the ancient past, Mars had lots of water. Today, some of that water remains, with most of it locked away in frozen ice caps at the planet’s north and south poles.
Fun Fact: Mars has two moons. They’re called Phobos and Deimos.
Fun Fact: If you ever go to Mars, don’t take off your helmet! The planet has almost no atmosphere, and it’s very cold. The average temperature is approximately minus 50 degree Fahrenheit, and even colder in some places.
Fun Fact: The atmosphere on Mars is very thin. The air pressure is only about 1% of the pressure we feel on Earth. But even with that very thin air, Mars still has dust storms that occasionally cover large parts of the planet.
It’s an Amazing Universe: The Milky Way, which is our home galaxy, contains billions of stars. All but a few thousand of those stars are too far to see unless you’re looking through a telescope.
It’s an Amazing Universe: The Milky Way has too many stars to count! But astronomers think that there are somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion stars in the Milky Way. That’s billion with a “b” which is a lot of stars.
It’s an Amazing Universe: Even though the Milky Way is loaded with stars, most of our galaxy is actually empty space between those stars. In fact, stars are so far apart that they almost never bump into each other. For example, the nearest star to our Sun is 4 light years away. That means that if you aimed a beam of light at our nearest star, it would take 4 years for the light to get there. But a regular spaceship, slow-poking along at a mere 17,600 miles per hour, would take about 165,000 years to get there!
It’s an Amazing Universe: Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. So it takes about 8 minutes for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth. But, the Milky Way is so big that it would take that same beam of light 100,000 years to go from one side of our galaxy to the other side.