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What would life be like if humans lived on Mars?

Many scientists believe that in the not-too-distant future, humans will be able to leave planet Earth to begin colonizing Mars. If you think you might like to be among the wanderlusts who will choose to embark on such a grand adventure, there are a couple of things you might want to know . . .

For one thing, on Mars you'll finally get that extra time in a day you've always wished for! Martian days are about half an hour longer than Earth days. But that's nothing compared to the extra time you'll get in a year--687 days versus only 365 days on Earth.

Second, you'll probably want to take along a lot of soap and laundry detergent. The "Red Planet" gets its nickname for the fine, red dust that covers Mars' surface. The red color comes from oxidized iron (rust) in the soil. It might not be so bad if the dust just settled on the ground, then only your shoes would get stained. The problem is that frequent and intense dust storms big enough to cover the entire planet can throw dust up to 25 miles into the air and last for months at a time--you're definitely going to get dirty!

Third, Mars has lots of big mountains, volcanoes, and canyons you'll want to visit. It is thought that some of these enormous canyons and gorges were formed from water flowing over the surface a long time ago when the planet was much warmer and may have supported life. While you're there, be sure to check out the volcano, Olympus Mons, the biggest mountain in the entire solar system. Its base is large enough to cover the entire state of Montana with Rhode Island nestled comfortably in its crater! Another bonus of Martian scenery: two moons in the nighttime sky--Phobos and Deimos.

Fourth, because Mars is located farther from the Sun than Earth, it will be a lot colder there. The average temperature on Mars is -63oF. That's about 120oF colder than on Earth! The extra distance from the Sun will also make the Sun look much smaller than it does from Earth. But don't let the smaller Sun and cold temperatures fool you. Because Mars lacks the protective ozone layer we have in Earth's atmosphere, you're much more likely to be severely sunburned there. So take some serious sunscreen--like SPF 1000!!

Mars' cold temperatures might also cause you to think that the white flakes you see falling down around you and on the mountain tops are snowflakes, but they're actually crystals of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice. If fact, the Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, so I guess you'll want to pack plenty of oxygen too!


Submitted by Sarah (Ontario, Canada)
(September 29, 1997)



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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA