Mars Pt.1 | Past and Present

podcast Mar 14, 2018

Why are we as a human race so fascinated with Mars? Where did this desire come from? What have we sent there already and what are we sending now? Find out in this episode of Space, But Messier!




Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 still falling, but China has been monitoring Tiangong-1 and has determined that the space lab will burn up after entering the atmosphere and the remaining wreckage will fall into a designated area in the sea, without endangering the earth.

NASA is building a HAMMER
Not a hammer like one in your toolbox at home, instead, they’re building a Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER). The plan is to protect our planet from asteroids before they can reach Earth. This project is headed up by NASA, the US National Security Administration and a weapons lab from the US Energy Department.

There are two ways the system could prevent an asteroid from slamming into Earth. Firstly, it would hit an asteroid to knock it off course and miss our planet. The second, and infinitely more dangerous, is that HAMMER would detonate an on-board nuclear warhead to splinter or destroy it altogether. Part of the reason for the development of HAMMER is NASA's monitoring of an asteroid named Bennu. (Ben-noo) Bennu can be seen every six years from Earth – but in 2135 it is expected to pass between us and the Moon. That could tweak its orbit and set it on a direct course for our planet. This year, NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe will arrive and spend a year surveying Bennu, which orbits the sun at 63,000mph. (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer || God of Ancient Egypt) 

Mars Pt.1 | Past & Present

Why Mars?

Why not Venus, Mercury, the Moon? Mars may be our closest planetary neighbor, close in size and the length our days. We may even be able to survive there for a bit. But why does everybody want to go to the red planet?

What is Mars?

Mars is much colder than Earth, with an average temperature of -80F or -60C
38% Earth’s gravity. (Moon is 16% of Earth’s gravity) The atmosphere of Mars is also almost 100 times thinner than Earth's, but it is still thick enough to support weather, clouds and winds. However, if you’ve seen the Martian, you may be wondering how accurate the storm seen is. For those who haven’t seen it…

Giant dust devils often kick up oxidized iron dust that covers the surface  and every 5 1/2 Earth years, Mars has a global dust storm. That being said, It is unlikely that even these dust storms could strand an astronaut on Mars. Even the wind in the largest dust storms would not knock over or rip apart mechanical equipment. The winds in the strongest Martian storms top out at about 60 miles per hour, less than half the speed of some hurricane-force winds on Earth.

Lastly, IT SNOWS ON MARS, instead of water, it’s made of carbon dioxide and looks more like fog than snow.

History - Canali

In the 1800s, telescopes were rapidly growing in size and in Milan, Italy, 1877, Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli, began mapping and naming areas on Mars. He named the dark and light areas as "seas" and "continents". He also saw channels on Mars and called them "canali." Canali translates to channels, but it was mistranslated into "canals" in English implying intelligent life on Mars. Because of the then recent completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, people assumed that Mars must have intelligent life.

Then in 1894 in Flagstaff, Arizona, Percival Lowel observed Mars himself. Knowling of the recent discovery of canals on Mars, his observations confirmed this these straight lines on the planet and mapped hundreds of them. Lowell believed that the straight lines were Martian-made canals built to transport water from the polar caps to the equator. In 1895, he published his first book on Mars with many illustrations and it was game over.

1897 - Kurd Lasswitz - Two Planets
1898 - H.G. Wells - War of the Worlds
1949 - Robert Heinline - Red Planet
1950 - Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
1951 - Arthur C. Clarke - The Sands of Mars
1961 - Robert Heinline - Stranger in a Strange Land
… leading to today
2011 - Andy Weir - The Martian



Mariner Spacecraft (1964-1971) were designed to be our first glimpses of Mars, being sent to Mars on a fly-by mission with MAriner 4 sending back our first ever images of another planet and Mariner 9 being the first ever satellite to enter Mars’ orbit.
Mars Observer (1992) and Mars Climate Orbiter (1998) lost contact upon arrival
Mars Global Surveyor arrived (1997)  and orbited Mars for 4 times longer than expected.


Mars Odyssey (2001) studies the composition of the planet's surface, water and ice detection, as well as radiation.
Mars Express (2003) - with ESA- studies MArs’s atmosphere and surface from a polar orbit
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (2006) carries the most powerful telescopic camera ever to another planet.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft will provide information about Mars’s atmosphere, climate history and potential habitability of the planet



In 1976, NASA’s Viking 1 & 2 became the first spacecraft to safely land on another planet.
The Mars Pathfinder mission (1997) was meant to be a demonstration of technology. With the Carl sagan Memorial Station as it’s lander and the Sojourner Rover. However, they ended up sending back 2.3 billion bits of information, 17,000 images, and more than 15 chemical analyses from rocks and soil.
Mars Polar Lander (1999) was meant to land on the frozen terrain near the edge of Mars' south polar cap and dig for water ice with a robotic arm, but unfortunately lost upon arrival
The Phoenix Mars Lander  (2008) successfully landed on the north polar region of Mars and it successfully dug up and analyzed icy soil.


Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) (2004) search for evidence of liquid water that may have been present in the planet's past. The rovers are identical to each other, but are exploring different regions of Mars.
Mars Science Laboratory (2012) is twice as long and three times as heavy as Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity mission is to tell us if Mars is habitable, can we live there.

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