Mars (

Mars is the fourth planet and the furthest terrestrial planet from the Sun. The reddish color of its surface is due to finely grained iron(III) oxide dust in the soil, giving it the nickname "the Red Planet". Mars's radius is second smallest among the planets in the Solar System at 3389.5 km. The Martian dichotomy is visible on the surface: on average, the terrain on Mars's northern hemisphere is flatter and lower than its southern hemisphere. Mars has a thin atmosphere made primarily of carbon dioxide, and two irregularly shaped natural satellites: Phobos and Deimos.

Geologically, Mars is fairly active, with dust devils sweeping across the landscape and marsquakes (Martian analog to earthquakes) trembling underneath the ground. The surface of Mars hosts a large shield volcano (Olympus Mons) and one of the largest canyons in the Solar System (Valles Marineris). Mars's significant orbital eccentricity and axial tilt cause large seasonal changes to the polar ice caps' coverage and temperature swings between -110 C to 35 C on the surface. A Martian solar day (sol) is equal to 24.5 hours and a Martian solar year is equal to 1.88 Earth years.

Like the other planets in the Solar System, Mars was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. During the Noachian period from about 4.1 to 3.7 billion years ago, Mars's surface was marked by meteor impacts, valley formation, erosion, and the possible presence of water oceans. The Hesperian period from 3.7 to 3.2–2 billion years ago was dominated by widespread volcanic activity and flooding that carved immense outflow channels. The Amazonian period, which continues to the present, was marked by the wind's influence on geological processes. It is unknown whether life has ever existed on Mars.

Mars is among the brightest objects in Earth's sky, and thus has been known from ancient times. Its high-contrast albedo features make it a common subject for viewing with a telescope. Since the late 20th century, Mars has been explored by uncrewed spacecraft and rovers, with the first flyby by the Mariner 4 probe in 1965, the first Mars orbiter by the Mars 2 probe in 1971, and the first landing by Viking 1 in 1976. As of 2023, there are at least 11 active probes orbiting Mars or at the Martian surface. Currently, Mars is an attractive target for the first future interplanetary human missions.

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What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa's next rover mission. The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

The billionaires fuelling a space race

Dubbed "NewSpace", an increasing number of entrepreneurs are joining in the race to create cheap, commercialised space travel. Among these are billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson, who all made their fortunes in other industries.

How the UAE got a spacecraft to Mars – on the first try

On 19 July 2020, a few months into a global pandemic that had paralysed the world, a rocket shot into the sky from the Japanese space launch site on its southerly island of Tanegashima. Aboard was a small spacecraft, a little over 2m (6.5ft) wide and weighing about as much as a Ford Focus car.

Perseverance: Nasa Mars rover to lay down rocks for Earth return

The American space agency's Mars rover Perseverance will this week begin dropping samples of rock on to the surface of the Red Planet. The materials have been packaged in small titanium tubes with the expectation they can be picked up by a future mission and brought home.

Why is Elon Musk spending his time on Twitter, not on the mission to Mars?

Technology editorI have been watching Elon Musk for a number of years - and more closely than ever in recent months, since he decided, seemingly on a whim, to buy the social network Twitter.

How To Terraform Mars - WITH LASERS

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Life on Mars? Australian rocks may hold clues for Nasa rover

Rocks in the Australian Outback dating back 3.5 billion years may help scientists work out whether there has ever been life on Mars. Researchers studying the Australian rocks say only ancient microbes could have shaped them the way they are.

Nasa space probes document big impacts on Mars

Space probes have witnessed a big impact crater being formed on Mars - the largest in the Solar System ever caught in the act of excavation. In more familiar terms, that's a crater roughly one-and-a-half times the size of London's Trafalgar Square.

Perseverance: Nasa Mars rover collects 'amazing' rock samples

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.The US space agency's Perseverance rover is close to completing its first set of objectives on Mars.

Searching for life on Mars from a Scottish island

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.In a flat on the island of Cumbrae, off the west coast of Scotland, a geologist has turned his kitchen into a hub in the search for signs of life on Mars.

Nasa's 'Marsquake' mission in its last months

The seismometer on Nasa's InSight probe will keep listening for Marsquakes even as other systems on the mission have to shut down due to declining power levels. The spacecraft has just detected a Magnitude 5 tremor - the biggest event yet in its three years of operation on the Red Planet.

Perseverance: Nasa rover begins key drive to find life on Mars

Nasa's Perseverance rover has reached a big moment in its mission on Mars. Tuesday will see the six-wheeled robot begin the climb up an ancient delta feature in the crater where it landed.

Mars scientists now know where to look for life

There's an air of relief in the science team running the American space agency's (Nasa) Perseverance rover on Mars. The researchers are sure now they've sent the robot to a location that provides the best possible opportunity to find signs of ancient life.

Perseverance: Nasa's Mars rover makes second drill sample bid

The US space agency's Perseverance rover has made another attempt to retrieve a rock sample on Mars. New images show the robot made a neat hole in a thick slab dubbed "Rochette".

Perseverance Mars rover's first rock sample goes missing

Engineers are trying to work out what went wrong when the US space agency's Perseverance rover tried to gather its first rock core on Mars. The robot's mechanisms seemed to work perfectly but when a metal tube expected to hold the sample was examined, it was found to be empty.

Nasa probe determines Mars' internal structure

Scientists say they now have some absolute numbers to describe the internal rock structure of Mars. The data comes from the InSight spacecraft, which has been sensing quakes on the planet since early 2019.

China releases videos of its Zhurong Mars rover

China's space agency has released video of its Zhurong rover trundling across the surface of Mars. The pictures were acquired by a wireless camera that the robot had placed on the ground.

China's Zhurong Mars rover takes a selfie

Wish you were here! China's Zhurong rover has sent back a batch of new images from Mars - including a "selfie".

China on Mars: Zhurong rover returns first pictures

China has released the first pictures taken by its Zhurong rover on Mars. The forward view shows the landscape ahead of the robot as it sits on its landing platform; the rear-looking image reveals Zhurong's solar panels.

Nasa's Ingenuity helicopter makes second Mars flight

The American space agency has completed a second helicopter flight on Mars. The small Ingenuity drone hovered 5m above the ground, tilted and moved laterally 2m, before then reversing and putting itself back down on the spot from which it took off.

Nasa's rover makes breathable oxygen on Mars

An instrument on Nasa's Perseverance rover on Mars has made oxygen from the planet's carbon dioxide atmosphere. It's the second successful technology demonstration on the mission, which flew a mini-helicopter on Monday.

Nasa successfully flies small helicopter on Mars

The American space agency has successfully flown a small helicopter on Mars. The drone, called Ingenuity, was airborne for less than a minute, but Nasa is celebrating what represents the first powered, controlled flight by an aircraft on another world.

Mars: Vast amount of water may be locked up on planet

It's a longstanding mystery: how Mars lost the water that flowed across its surface billions of years ago. Scientists now think they have an answer: much of it became trapped in the planet's outer layer - its crust.

Nasa's Perseverance rover begins its exploration of Mars

The US space agency's Perseverance rover has wiggled its wheels and undertaken its first Martian drive. It didn't move far - just 6.5m (21ft) in total.

Mars: Nasa's Perseverance rover sends stunning images

Nasa's Perseverance rover landed on Mars at 20:55 GMT on 18 February after almost seven months travelling from Earth. Since then, it has sent back some amazing images from around its landing site, Jezero Crater, a 49km (30-mile) wide impact depression just north of the Red Planet's equator.

Nasa Mars rover: How Perseverance will hunt for signs of past life

Nasa's Perseverance rover, due to launch to Mars this summer, will search an ancient crater lake for signs of past life. But if biology ever emerged on the Red Planet, how will scientists recognise it? Here, deputy project scientist Ken Williford explains what they're looking for.

Video shows Perseverance rover's dramatic Mars landing

Nasa has released stunning videos of its Perseverance rover landing on Mars. The movies cover the final minutes of last week's hair-raising descent, up to the point where the robot's wheels make contact with the ground.

Mars landing: Photo shows Perseverance about to touch down

The American space agency has released an astonishing image sent back from Mars by its Perseverance rover. It shows the robot heading down to the ground on Thursday to make its landing. It was acquired by the rocket cradle that placed the vehicle on the surface.

Mars landing: Nasa's Perseverance rover in 'great shape'

There's a new robot on the surface of Mars. The American space agency has successfully landed its Perseverance rover in a deep crater near the planet's equator called Jezero.

Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot all set for big test

The stakes could not be higher for the US space agency's Perseverance rover. The six-wheeled robot is fast approaching the end of its seven-month journey from Earth and will very shortly plunge into the atmosphere of Mars.

Emirates Mars Mission: Hope spacecraft enters orbit

The United Arab Emirates is celebrating its first mission at Mars. It has put a probe called Hope in orbit around the planet, making it only the fifth spacefaring entity to do so after the US, the Soviet Union, Europe and India.

Nasa's Perseverance rover is bearing down on Mars

The US space agency's Perseverance rover is now just three weeks from arriving at Mars. The robot and the Red Planet are still separated by some 4.5 million km (3 million miles), but this gap is closing at a rapid rate.

Nasa's Curiosity rover: 3,000 days on Mars

The US space agency (Nasa) is about to put its latest rover, Perseverance, on Mars. But we shouldn't forget that the existing robot, Curiosity, is still there and working well following its landing in equatorial Gale Crater back in 2012.

What is Elon Musk's Starship?

Elon Musk is developing a vehicle that could be a game-changer for space travel. Starship, as it's known, will be a fully reusable transport system capable of carrying up to 100 people to the Red Planet.

Elon Musk's six secrets to business success

Elon Musk has just become the richest person in the world, overtaking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur's net worth has crossed $185bn (£136bn) after an increase in the share price of the electric car company.

Nasa's Mars rover and the 'seven minutes of terror'

The US space agency (Nasa) has released an animation showing how its one-tonne Perseverance rover will land on Mars on 18 February. The robot is being sent to a crater called Jezero where it will search for evidence of past life. But to undertake this science, it must first touch down softly.

Elon Musk's Starship prototype makes a big impact

US entrepreneur Elon Musk has launched the latest prototype of his Starship vehicle from Texas. Codenamed SN8, the uncrewed rocket lifted away from the Boca Chica R&D facility on what had been billed as a brief flight to 12.5km (41,000ft).

Hampshire doctor claims Mars ownership using lasers

Phil Davies has been trying for more than a decade to highlight the "terrible plight" of the 43-year-old Outer Space Treaty. He now leads a global campaign to own part of the planet, in a bid to force the UN to update its rules.

Buried lakes of liquid water discovered on Mars

Three new underground lakes have been detected near the south pole of Mars. Scientists also confirmed the existence of a fourth lake - the presence of which was hinted at in 2018.

New engine tech that could get us to Mars faster

If we're ever to make regular journeys from Earth to Mars and other far-off destinations, we might need new kinds of engines. Engineers are exploring revolutionary new technologies that could help us traverse the Solar System in much less time.

Europe pushes ahead with 'dune buggy' Mars rover

The European Space Agency is moving rapidly to develop its next Mars rover. It already has one vehicle set to go to the Red Planet in 2022, but is now pushing ahead with a second robot, which will depart in 2026.

China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars. The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

SpaceX: Musk's 'Mars ship' prototype aces 150m test flight

The uncrewed test vehicle rose up on a plume of exhaust before deploying its landing legs and touching down softly. The flight was carried out at SpaceX's test site near the village of Boca Chica in south Texas on Tuesday evening.

Nasa Mars rover: Meteorite to head home to Red Planet

Nasa's Perseverance robot will carry with it a meteorite that originated on the Red Planet and which, until now, has been lodged in the collection of London's Natural History Museum (NHM). The rock's known properties will act as a calibration target to benchmark the workings of a rover instrument.

Hope probe: UAE launches historic first mission to Mars

The United Arab Emirates' historic first mission to Mars is under way, after a successful lift-off in Japan. The Hope probe launched on an H2-A rocket from Tanegashima spaceport, and is now on a 500-million-km journey to study the planet's weather and climate.

Mars: Green glow detected on the Red Planet

Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars. The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they're excited by sunlight.

UAE Mars mission: Hope project a 'real step forward for exploration'

The first Arab space mission to Mars is preparing to lift off within weeks. Fuelling is due to begin next week. It will take seven months to travel the 493 million km (308 million miles) to reach Mars and begin its orbit, sending back ground-breaking new data about its climate and atmosphere.

Huge seas 'once existed on Mars'

US scientists have found further evidence that huge seas existed long ago on Mars. The 2,000 km-wide, 8km-deep Hellas basin is a giant impact crater - the largest such structure on Mars.

Mars: Mud flows on Red Planet behave like 'boiling toothpaste'

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about Mars by playing with muck in the laboratory. An international team of researchers wondered how volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten rock might look on the Red Planet compared with their counterparts here on Earth.

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