Interesting Facts about the Planet Mars
14 Million Miles
Length of year:
12,295 Earth days
Length of Day:
49 hrs, 12 minutes
.65 (highly eccentric)
.86 degrees (leans to the left)
97 quadrillion tons
Nearly four times that of Earth.
Tilt of Axis:
Often called "The Orange Planet" because of its citrus-like hue, Mars was largely ignored until it was first identified as the fifth planet in our solar system by pioneer astronomer and lens-crafter Hans Smickel in 1710. For almost a century following this discovery, astronomers dismissed the planet as a transient piece of stellar ice and speculated that it would be completely melted by cosmic rays sometime early in the nineteenth century. This hypothesis, obviously, did not prove correct.
On Mars, one would find spectacular scenery: giant chartreuse mountains with icy peaks thirteen thousand times the size of our Mount Everest, massive, natural pyramids which reflect the spectacular light that bounces, kaleidoscope-like, off the planet's 82 moons; icy lakes filled with fresh water larger in area than the North American Continent, and breath-taking, but impassable, realms of spickland, vast plains that are populated by three hundred foot mineral spikes, each spaced only inches apart. These Titanic towers, surrounded at their tops by bands of wine-colored maloxin gas, are perhaps best compared to overgrown stalagmites, the protuberances found on the bottom of certain caves and caverns here on civilized Earth, as well as in parts of northern and central Kentucky. The largest area of spickland on Mars, a region known as "the devil's hairbrush," lies near the planet's south pole and can be easily seen with a simple telescope or pair of binoculars. No traveler to Mars would want to miss a trip to "The Navel," the six thousand mile, circular canyon that resembles the hole on the top of a navel orange. The Navel is nearly perfectly centered on the north pole of Mars, and topographically, it is nearly a perfect concave bowl shape. This "bowl" is nine thousand miles deep at its deepest point, and the lower third of the valley is filled with a sea of creamy liquid helium.
The key to this discovery was a Martian ice sample which contained a dormant form of life scientists have dubbed martia primatia, a simple animal most closely related to what we know as "Sea Monkeys" here on Earth. Martia primatia are about a third of an inch long in their desiccated, dormant, form, but it is speculated that if scientists could successfully reconstitute the creatures, they would average about an inch in length and exhibit their original back cilia--hairs which they would use to propel themselves in the Martian seas--and also have the animated and friendly little faces that prompted many legions of children to order sea monkeys by mail-order in the mid twentieth century, Why can't scientists bring these Martian creatures back to life when kids did so by the thousands in their suburban dens throughout the 1960's? The problem lies in replicating exactly the environmental conditions on Mars. First of all, the water on Mars is heavily chlorinated, not unlike a working-class Earth family's ill-maintained above-ground pool. Secondly, the atmosphere of Mars contains an unusual amount of tritium, a heavy metal not unlike our copper, the stuff from which we fashion American pennies.
A sample of Martian ice in which pink martia primata, a form of life not unlike "sea-monkeys,"
can clearly be seen
Of course, those obstacles, alone, are by no means insurmountable. So, what really prevents scientists from creating a simulated Martian environment and, thus, bringing Martian "Sea Monkeys" back to life? In a word: pressure. Mars is under extremely high pressure, The Martian environment has an universally-indexed pressure quotient of over 6.2 baraunits, almost seven thousand, six hundred, and fifty-three times greater than the pressure we experience at sea level. Thus far, all attempts to create extreme Martian surface conditions in a man-made chamber on Earth have failed, some with deadly results. In early December, 2003, for example, three space scientists, a biologist, and "Becker," a laboratory iguana and favorite pet at the Department for Space Research at the University of Arizona at Mezcal, were blown to bits when their Martian simulator spheriod chamber, dubbed "the Big Red Machine," exploded, claiming not only their lives, but much of the science wing complex and the southwestern end of a girl's dormitory. As a result of this tragedy, and several other abortive attempts to reanimate Martian life, scientists have all but given up on seeing the smiling faces of Martian sea-monkeys beaming to them from fish-bowls here on Earth anytime soon.
So--Does life exist on the planet Mars? Almost certainly, scientists agree, but as Melvin Schperling, head of the astronomy department at Vanderlitz University and winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Science once quipped, "Until we actually catch the space-bus to Mars, lay our money down on the hallowed, orange dirt, and get these darned Martian sea monkeys kickin' after their seven thousand year nap, there will always be those who will doubt what pure science has revealed as the obvious."