Mars was named after the Romans god of war because of its red, bloodlike color. The surface soil is colored reddish due to iron minerals which have oxidized, or rusted, in the atmosphere. The atmosphere is thin carbon dioxide, CO2, and very windy, blowing the rusted dust around. Mars has a polar ice caps of water under a layer of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice).
The average temperature is about -60° C. The temperature on Mars can vary from – 125° C during the winter at the north and south poles, to an Earth comfortable 20° C afternoon near the equator.
The two moons of Mars are most likely captured asteroids from the asteroid belt.
- 1965: NASA’s Mariner 4 sends back photos of Mars.
- 1976: Viking 1 and 2 land on the surface of Mars.
- 1997: Mars Pathfinder lands. Sojourner, the first rover explores the surface of Mars.
- 2004: Twin Mars Exploration Rovers named Spirit and Opportunity find evidence that Mars once had liquid water.
- 2008: Phoenix finds signs of occasional liquid water and favorable soil.
- 2012: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity finds conditions once suitable for microbial life.