People have been enthralled by the red planet, Mars, for centuries, long before the blockbuster book and movie The Martian. The planet has been known since antiquity, but if NASA gets its way, human beings may set foot there as early as 2030.
What we know about Mars keeps evolving, thanks to remote sensing and unmanned missions like NASA's Curiosity rover. There's a lot we don't know, including whether the red planet ever harboured life, how its atmosphere got the way it is, and what happened to the oceans that apparently used to cover much of its surface.
Here are a few fast facts about Mars, based on the latest science:
- Mars is 49 million miles away from Earth, which means a mission there is expected to take about a year. Pack light.
- One Martian year is 687 days. I hope Martians get more than two weeks of vacation.
- Temperatures there are known to dip as low as -284 F (-175 C). Better take an extra parka.
- Mars' gravity is 62 percent less than Earth's. No need for that diet!
- Mars had water oceans as recently as 3.5 billion years ago. Who pulled the stopper?
- The red planet's atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. Let's hope that doesn't happen to the Earth.
Learn more about the red planet with legendary astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he talks to Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Mars One, a non-profit organization with the goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars.
StarTalk: Mars 1 – premieres Monday at 10.30pm AEDT/NZDT on National Geographic Channel