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The Red Planet Up Close

Mike Swanson
August 2003

Mars Throughout Our History

Mars the God of War
The first observation of
surface features was in
1659 by an astronomer
in the Netherlands
By the 18th century
astronomers were
making maps of the
Martian surface and
had noticed the
seasonal changes in
the polar ice caps

In 1877, Mars two

moons were
discovered by
astronomers at the
US Naval
Then came the

Canals and Little Green Men

In the 1870s and 80s,
an Italian astronomer
made the first detailed
maps of the surface,
including straight lines
he termed canali
The public began
calling them canals

One man, Percival Lowell,

became obsessed with
the idea of these canals,
staking his reputation on
their existence even
after they were largely
Many began to believe
intelligent beings created
the canals to transport
water across the deserts
of the planet

Mars Facts
4th planet from the Sun
Diameter of 4,200 mi
(6,800 km) about half
size of Earth, twice the
size of the Moon
1 day on Mars is about
25 hours
1 year on Mars is 687
Average distance from
the Sun is about 1.5
times that of Earth

Two tiny moons

Phobos (7 mi / 11 km)
and Deimos (4 mi / 6
Thin atmosphere (less
than 1% the pressure
of Earth) of carbon
dioxide and other trace
Average temperature is
-70 F (-55 C) but a
hot summer day can
be 80 F (27 C)

Mars Geology
The Martian surface is a desert of rocks
and blowing sand

Mars Geology
Valles Marineris the longest canyon in
the Solar System

Mars Geology
Olympus Mons the largest volcano/mountain in the Solar

Mars Geology - Water

In the distant past, water likely formed some surface
features. Water is now believed to be frozen in the

Life on Mars?
The presence of water, ancient geological activity and
the average temperature of Mars makes it a good
candidate for life not necessarily now, but possibly
in the past

Missions to Mars
Starting in the
1960s, we have sent
33 unmanned
missions to explore
The track record has
been terrible 18
missions failed

The first truly

successful missions
were in the late
60s/early 70s
NASAs Mars Global
Surveyor, Mars
Pathfinder and Mars
Odyssey missions have
provided most of the
scientific data and the
wonderful images we
currently enjoy


Why is August 2003 the

closest approach of Mars in
recorded history?

Cool Pictures of Mars

More Cool Pictures of Mars

More Cool Pictures of Mars

The Earth and Moon Seen from


What about that face?

What about that face?

But what does Mars look like

when viewed through a

The images in this presentation are

copyrighted by NASA.
For additional information and links to
many other resources, visit the
Students for the Exploration and
Development of Space (SEDS) web