Part of Space Exploration and Mars
Did you research Mars during space week?
- It has a thick outer crust
- The crust consists of 2 or 3 layers
- Scientist estimate there are about 35 km between the crust and the mantle
- It is thought the mantle is cooler
- Mars has a metallic molten-liquid core
Remember during Earth week we found out about our planets layers!
Can you remember that Mars is known as the "red planet" - This is not because it is warm. It is a cold planet and we know seasons happen just like on Earth. Scientists have observed polar ice caps and volcanoes, and they have even seen changes in the weather.
So why are we always sending lander type vehicles to Mars?
Did you know that there have been 16 Mars Landers and some of them have had sub-landers on board? Not all of them have succeeded sadly, which is made worse by the length of time they take to get there.
There is a small window of opportunity for the journey to begin as there is only one month when Mars and Earth are in the same orbit - the only time they are close enough! It takes 7-10 months to get from Earth to Mars - that’s quite a long time to be waiting to see if the lander you have been involved in building actually makes it to the surface of Mars - do you think these scientists will be working on the next version as they wait?
Of course, they will - new technology and different methods are being discovered and invented daily so they will not be just waiting to see what happens they will be making improvements and changes to the next version! It is also important that the opportunity is not missed to send your lander or satellite to Mars - you may have to wait over two years until conditions are good enough to try again.
Before we look at the three space missions that are due to reach Mars very soon let us take a wee trip back to find out about two very successful landers - the Mars Rovers!
These little guys - Spirit and Opportunity - landed on Mars in January 2004 and they lasted much longer than anyone could have hoped for. They were expected to last around 90 days and Opportunity was still going 15 years later!
Watch this video to see how excited all the engineers and scientist are when a Rover lands successfully!
Each rover bounced onto the surface inside a landing craft protected by airbags. When they settled the airbags were let down and the landing craft opened. The rovers were then able to take panoramic images and send them back to geologist to allow them to carry out specialised calculations and research to find out just what conditions have been like on Mars over many many years.
So what did they find out?
- Long ago Mars was wetter
- Mars may have been able to sustain microbial life!
- There used to be flowing water
- The climate was warmer
- There was evidence of salty water
Although this does not seem very exciting and no Martians were spotted (so far) - this is extremely important if at any time there will be the chance for humans to travel to Mars.
If you were going to design a Mars lander what would you include?
Why not have a go - check out this video to get some hints and tips! The second video gives you a history of all the robots on Mars!
Send us your designs. You may even win a prize! You could even build yours with whatever you can find in the recycle box or out of Lego or Knex.
This page is part of the Space Exploration and Mars information.
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