Mapping Mars: The Topography and Geology of the Red Planet

Named after the Roman god of war Mars is also called the Red Planet due to its distinctive color. The red surface is caused by red dust that cows almost the entire surface of the planet. At times planet-wide dust storms envelop the world and redistribute the red dust into giant sand dunes.

Mars is home to dizzyingly tall mountains and deep canyons. Olympus Mount the tallest mountain in the Solar system it’s about two and a half times taller than Mount Everest. The surface of Olympus Mons is geologically very young and the volcano may still be active. The Martian canyons called the Vales Marries is approximately the length of the entire continental United States and more than three times as deep as the Grand Canyon. Like Venus and Mercury, Mars has impact craters off over the planet where meteors have fallen through the thin atmosphere to strike the surface.

Billions of years ago the surface of Mars and Earth looked very similar. Although the Martian surface no longer holds any liquid water. Mars probably once had lakes and rivers, as well as a thick atmosphere like Earth. Why did Mars become a cold waterless desert while life flourished on Earth? Knowing more about the history of Mars might also help us understand more about the past and future of Earth.

A topographic map of Mars

A topographic map of Mars
Reddit user: hellofromthemoon.

The distinctive red color of the Martian surface is due to the dust particles that coat the ground. Planet-wide dust storms can occur when high winds blow the dust into the air.

A geology map of Mars

A geologic map of Mars
Reddit user: hellofromthemoon. Geologic units here.

The space race
Spacecraft exploration of Mars began in earnest during the 2Oth century Space Race, when the United States and the Soviet Union competed to explore the Solar system with satellites and manned missions. Since then more than 50 space missions have been launched toward Mas – about half of them successful. Some notable missions include the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, which collected the data used to design this geologic map. The Curiosity Rover, a car-sized robot is a recent addition to the planet. Curiosity is equipped with six independently control wheels, a robotic arm, and tools for analyzing Martian rocks.

Missions to Mars
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