Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh), Nov 5 IANS | 2 years ago

By successfully placing its first Mars orbiter in an Earth orbit in a copy-book style Tuesday, India became the first Asian country and the fourth in the world to launch a probe to the Red Planet, a staggering 400 million km away. But what is it about Mars that interests scientists and common people alike?

Named after the ancient Roman god of war, Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun after Mercury, Venus and the Earth. And it is closest to the Earth.

NASA says Mars is about one-sixth the size of the Earth.

The planet gets its red hue from the iron in its soil.

The Greeks called the planet Ares. The Romans and Greeks associated it with war because its soil's red colour resembles the colour of blood.

Mars has two small moons named Phobos and Deimos.

Atmosphere of Mars:

The atmosphere of Mars is mainly Carbon dioxide, which constitutes 95.32 percent. Nitrogen (2.7pc ), Argon (1.6pc ), Oxygen (0.13pc ), water vapoor (0.03pc ), Nitric oxide (0.01pc ) are other elements of the Martian atmosphere, which causes it to become dry.

According to NASA, the average temperature on Mars is minus 62 degrees Celsius. The surface of Mars is rocky, with canyons, volcanoes and red dust covering most of it. The gravity of the planet is about one-third of the Earth's.

Travelling to Mars:

The US space agency carries this advisory for the future travellers planning for a trip to the Red Planet:

"Mars is no place for the faint-hearted. Arid, rocky, cold and apparently lifeless, the Red Planet offers few hospitalities. Fans of extreme sports can rejoice, however, for the Red Planet will challenge even the hardiest souls among us."

"Home to the largest volcano in the solar system, the deepest canyon and crazy weather and temperature patterns, Mars looms as the ultimate lonely planet destination," it said.

(Posted on 05-11-2013)