Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun in our galaxy, has enthralled stargazers for centuries and is named after the Roman god of war. Nasa’s Insight
Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun in our galaxy, has enthralled stargazers for centuries and is named after the Roman god of war.
Nasa’s Insight probe has landed on the planet in an attempt to find out more about what is bellow the planet’s surface.
How far away is Mars?
Mars, also known as the Red Planet, is 33.9million miles (54.6m kilometres) away from Earth.
It is 141.6m miles (227.9m kilometres) away from the Sun.
The planet has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped and may even be asteroids that fell into the planet’s gravitational pull.
Why is the planet red?
It is often called the Red Planet due to its colouring that gives it a reddish appearance.
This is due to the large amount of iron oxide (rust) found on its surface.
The surface of Mars is mainly composed of tholeiitic basalt.
It’s orbital period is equivalent to 687 Earth days with a Mars day lasting 24 hours and 39 minutes.
How long does it take to get there?
There are a number of factors to consider when working this out, according to Space.com, these include the distance between Earth and Mars as well as how fast you are travelling.
While theoretically the closest the two planets can get due to their orbits is 33.9m but this has never been recorded – the closest being is 34.8m miles.
The furthest they can be is 250m miles, making the average 140m miles.
The fastest spacecraft launched from Earth was Nasa’s New Horizons mission.
The probe left Earth at a speed of 36,000mph.
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If a similar probe left in a direct line to mars, the quickest it could possibly do the journey in is 39 days although the quickest that has been achieved so far is 41 days.
On average it would take 162 days.
That’s the theory but other factors have to be taken into account, like the two planets are continually moving so if a probe was sent in a direct line when the two were as close as possible, by the time the probe reached Mars, it would have moved.
Calculations have to consider where the planet will be when the probe reached Mars.
Another factor is that a probe would have to slow down as it neared Mars otherwise it would simply smash into the planet.
Economics is also a factor – the faster a spacecraft travels the more fuel it burns up which has to be carried on board which will make the craft heavier and it might not be actually possible to carry so much fuel as it hurtles through space.