As humankind looks to Mars to support our ever-growing populations, there’s one very important factor to keep in mind: Mars is small.
Because of advancing technology, humankind’s most ambitious goal yet is within reach: sending the first astronauts to Mars. Eventually, we could even colonize Mars, establishing the first multi-planetary species in history. Future generations of Martians would enjoy one-third the gravitational pull of Earthlings, but would look upon our blue planet and marvel at how large it is by comparison.
Here’s what North America looks like on Earth:
In fact, Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system next to Mercury. It’s half the size of Earth, despite hosting the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, and the third-largest canyon, Valles Merineris. Olympus Mons is so large it would completely cover the state of Arizona, and Valles Merineris, measuring 2,500 miles in length, is longer than the distance from LA to New York.
Even still, Brady estimates that it would only take eight hours to ride a plane from one side of Mars to the other. Companies like NASA, SpaceX, and Mars One have all announced plans to set foot on Mars by no later than 2040 with Mars One having the most ambitious timeline of touching down by 2025.
In addition to humans, NASA has plans to continue sending rovers to study the Martian surface. Right now, the only operational rovers on Mars are the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, which together have traversed over 50 miles across the desolate, dusty, pebble-littered surface.
Curiosity is famous for taking selfies, like the one shown below, which is a composite of 55 separate images:
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