Mars, the Bright Red Planet

Have you ever left something metal outside, only to find that days later it was covered with rust? The same thing is true for Mars, because its surface is covered with sand dunes and rocks that have iron in them. When one of Mars's strong dust storms occurs, even the atmosphere fills with the rust. What do you think causes this rust? Space probes sent to explore Mars have found water in some of the clouds, but only small amounts of oxygen in the atmosphere. Some scientistsbelieve that billions of years ago, Mars may have looked a lot like Earth does now with a similar atmosphereand oceans. They also think that not too long ago, there may have been water on the planet's surface. Or that there may still be some water undergroundor near Mars's poles. After studying this mysterious planet for some time, astronomers think they may be seeing icecaps on Mars. These icecaps appear to shrink and grow with the shifting temperaturescaused by the changing seasons. They're not sure if what they are seeing is really water or just frozen carbon dioxide. If it is frozen carbon dioxide it would be like our dry ice here on Earth. Although Mars is too far away to visit in person, you can watch two roversnamed Spirit and Opportunity travel over the Mars landscape using your computer. These rovers aren't able to travel very far, but maybe someday, larger ones manned by astronauts will visit Olympus Mons, a dead volcano located on Mars. Olympus Mons is believed to be at least three times higher than Earth's Mt. Everest. Why do you think its volcano is so much higher than any of our mountain peaks here on Earth? Maybe the weak gravity on Mars doesn't pull them downward like Earth's gravity does. While the astronauts are there they might also want to explore Valles Marineris, a valley that would make the Grand Canyon look very small. But most important of all, they could finally see if there was or is any water on Mars.

Mystery on Mars

Space probes send pictures back to Earth one bit of information at a time. Can you put all the pieces together to see the picture that has been sent from the surfaceof Mars? Find the box marked 1-A. Copy the pattern into box 1-A of the grid. Find box 2-A. Copy the pattern into box 2-A. Repeat until all the boxes are copied.

Say What?

It often pays off to listen very closely when someone is talking to you, especially if they are offering you something to eat. Otherwise what you thought was going to be a piece of pie might end up being a pizza pie! This kind of poor communication left generations of people thinking there were canals on Mars when what an Italian astronomer had been describing were actually channels in the landscape!Some people really wanted to believe that there was life on another planet, so they soon dreamed up that these canals were supplying water to settlements in the desert. Scientists hoped the inhabitants would look like a lot like humans, but it wasn't long before picturesof little green men and bug-eyed monsters were appearing in cartoons, books, movies, and eventually, on TV. Was there ever life on Mars, and if so, what did it look like? What size, shape, or attachments to a Martian'sbody could really be too impossible to imagine?

What do you think a Martian would look like? Have a group of your friends try their hand at drawing one and then choose which one you think could survive on Mars. Animals on Earth have adapted to all sorts of impossible living conditions like deep oceans where the weight of the water can equal the high atmospheric pressure on some planets, the scalding temperatures inside underwater volcanoes, and mountain tops with very little oxygen. Even Earth has some pretty unusual creatures. Can you and your friends name a few of them?

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