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Solar System

Mars In The Fourth Position

NASA has several Mars missions planned for the next decade. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. It is a very active planet like the Earth. It has evidence of volcanoes, plate tectonics, and liquid water (as opposed to ice) on the planet. It even has polar ice caps like the Earth, with water in the north and solid carbon dioxide in the south. With all of these similarities, Mars is still nothing like Earth. It only has 40% of our gravity because the mass of the planet is so much smaller. Also, its atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide and has less than 1% of the atmospheric pressure of Earth.

Any Life Up There?

Scientists still hold out hope for life on Mars. Mars had lots of water. Right now, there are ice caps on the surface. At one time, there may have been water in liquid form under the surface of the planet. Recent discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rovers have proven the existence of water by discovering hematite. Where there is water, there could be life. Mars also has weather and a heat source. The atmosphere circulates around the planet and there are volcanoes on the surface.

Exploring Mars

Many probes have visited Mars through the years because it is so close to Earth. Viking, Pathfinder, Sojourner, and Mariner are only a few. The Viking Lander checked out the surface of Mars in the 1970's. It sent back some great pictures of the red surface of the planet. The surface is a reddish color because the rocks and crust are chock full of iron compounds. For several years, the two Mars Exploration Rovers have been studying the surface rocks in detail. They have been able to travel to many locations in a small area. With patience, the rovers have made many new discoveries about the geologic history of Mars.

All of these probes have also shown us a great deal of the Martian surface. Mars has the largest volcano ever discovered. It has been named Olympus Mons and is one of the most amazing features of the planet. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will soon photograph the location in higher resolution than before. The probes have also discovered many channels that cross the surface. Those channels may have been created by flowing water and erosion on the surface and the mountains.

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Landing on Mars (NASA/JPL Video)
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Keywords for Review

Kinetic Energy: The energy of an object related to the motion of the object. On a simple level, an object that is not moving has no kinetic energy. An object that is moving has some amount of kinetic energy. The more an object moves, the more kinetic energy it has. An object increases its kinetic energy if it accelerates and increases its velocity. For example, as you increase the temperature of a gas, the molecules become more energetic and the system has an overall increase in kinetic energy. Kinetic Energy=(0.5)* mass * (velocity)2

Exothermic: A chemical reaction that releases energy after the reaction is complete. The energy is usually released as heat, but it can also be released as light or sound. On a small scale, a burning candle releases light and heat because of exothermic reactions as the wax burns. On a large scale, an explosion might occur when blasting with sticks of dynamite (TNT).

Activation Energy: The least amount of energy needed for a chemical reaction to occur. Reactions often require some amount of energy to get moving. For example, placing hydrogen and oxygen gases in a container will not give you water. There is a certain amount of energy required to get the first reaction going. Catalysts are substances that help to lower activation energies so that reactions can proceed.

Viscosity: A term used to measure the fluidity of a liquid. As the attractions between the molecules increase, viscosity increases. Fluids with high viscosities don’t flow easily. Some substances such as honey or sap are very slow moving and have high viscosities. Other fluids such as water or mercury (Hg) have very low viscosities.

Volatile: Volatility is the likelihood that a substance will vaporize (become a gas). Volatility measurements are all about comparing two substances. Substances with a higher vapor pressure are more volatile. Alcohol is more volatile than water because it evaporates at a lower temperature.

Reference Materials

Encyclopædia Britannica:

- Cosmos4Kids: Jupiter
- Chem4Kids: Matter
- Chem4Kids: Astrochemistry
- Chem4Kids: Elements
- Geography4Kids: Solar Radiation
- Physics4Kids: Gravity
- Physics4Kids: Magnetic Fields
- Physics4Kids: Light

- NASA: Home Page
- ESA: Home Page
- NASA: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
- NASA: Mars Exploration Rovers
- NASA: Mars Home Page
- ESA: Mars Express Mission

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