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Mars is a fourth planet known as the Red Planet; exist beyond the Earth and about one-sixth the size of Earth. It is more than 142 million miles away from the sun. It gets its red color from the iron in its soil. Mars has two small moons. Their names are PHOBOS and DEIMOS. Mars is very cold. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit — way below freezing! Mars is rocky with canyons (a deep gorge), volcanoes and craters (bowl shaped cavity) all over it. Red dust covers almost all of Mars. It has clouds and wind, just as Earth does. Sometimes the wind blows the red dust into a dust storm. Mars has about one-third the gravity of Earth. A rock dropped on Mars would fall slower than a rock dropped on Earth. Things weigh less on Mars than they weigh on Earth. A person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth would only weigh about 37 pounds on Mars because of less gravity.

NASA is landed two robots called Mars Curiosity Rovers that move on Mars in January 2004 for exploring Mars’ surface. It travels around taking pictures and looking closely at the planet’s soil and rocks. NASA uses pictures and information from the spacecraft and the rovers to learn more about Mars. NASA’s scientists found evidence that water once flowed on Mars. Living things need water to survive so, any sign of water on Mars would mean that there could be, or could have been, life on the planet. Currently cold and dry Mars may have had rivers some 3 billion years ago. Scientists now have evidence that a river once flowed for tens of miles through Gale Crater on the Red Planet. Pebbles, captured in images beamed back to Earth by the Mars Curiosity Rover, alerted scientists to the possibility of rivers on Mars – and water has long been considered a prerequisite for life. In the foreground of the new image, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from Curiosity’s position, lies a ridge rich in hematite, a mineral form of iron oxide. Beyond the ridge lie ancient hills containing clay minerals, and behind those hills are buttes rich in sulfate minerals, NASA officials said.

The changing mineralogy in layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago. The light-colored, heavily wind-eroded cliffs in the background, when Mars was drier, researchers said. In a sandstone-dominated part of Mount Sharp’s lower reaches that mission team members call the Stimson Unit. The six-wheeled robot drilled a 2.6-inch-deep (6.5 centimeters) hole in a rock dubbed Big Sky, then collected some of the resulting powder for analysis.

That analysis — using the rover’s onboard Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments. NASA found the ordinary sandstone rock. It also happens to be relatively near sandstone that looks as though it has been altered by fluids — likely groundwater with other dissolved chemicals. Curiosity has now drilled eight such sample-collecting holes on Mars. Five of these drilling operations have occurred at the base of Mount Sharp. Curiosity landed inside Mars’ 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater to determine if the Red Planet has ever been capable of supporting microbial life. Curiosity’s observations near its landing site revealed that Gale Crater harbored a potentially habitable lake-and-stream system billions of years ago. NASA wants robots to some days collect Martian soil and rocks and bring them back to Earth to be studied. To get ready to send humans to Mars, NASA is studying new kinds of homes where astronauts can live. Scientists are studying how people in space could grow plants for food. By watching what happens to astronauts on the International Space Station, scientists are finding out how living in space affects humans.

Author of this article is Khalid Ahmed Mirani Associate Curator (Sedimintologist) Earth Sciences Division Pakistan Museum of Natural History Islamabad.


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