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Map of Mars: The Geology of the Red Planet

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A Map of Mars: The Geology of the Red Planet

Mapping Mars: The Geology of the Red Planet

View the high resolution version of this incredible map by clicking here

For centuries, Mars has been mythically defined by its characteristic red appearance.

In Babylonian astronomy, Mars was named after Nergal, the deity of fire, war, and destruction. In Chinese and Japanese texts, the planet was known as 火星, the fire star.

Although this unique reddish hue has been a key defining characteristic of Mars in culture for centuries, today we now know that it’s the iron oxide soil of the Martian landscape that makes it the “Red Planet” – and that there is much more to Mars than its color upon closer observation.

Above, today’s map, posted and created by Reddit user /hellofromthemoon, brings together the data from centuries of observation and the numerous missions to the Red Planet to map out its geology on a grand scale.

A Red Dot in the Sky

Egyptian astronomers first observed the planet Mars four thousand years ago and named it “Horus-the-red.” Babylonian astronomers marked its course through the night sky to track the passage of time. But it was not until 1610, when Galileo Galilei witnessed Mars with his own eyes through a telescope, that Mars was revealed as a whole other world.

Over the centuries with improving technology, a succession of astronomers observed and crudely mapped out everything from polar ice caps to yellow clouds, and white and dark spots denoting varying elevations across the Martian surface. Some of the earliest maps of Mars date to 1831. But there is only so much you can accurately observe from the surface of the Earth.

On July 14, 1965, NASA successfully received the first up-close images of Mars from the Mariner 4 spacecraft, passing within 9,844 kilometers (6,117 miles) of Mars’ surface. Mariner 4 captured the image of a large ancient crater and confirmed the existence of a thin atmosphere composed largely of carbon dioxide.

Since then, four space agencies have successfully made it to Mars: NASA, the former Soviet Union space program, the European Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organization. From orbital satellites to surface exploration with robots, each successful mission has brought back important data to develop an evolving picture of the planet.

Here is a complete list of both the successful and failed missions to Mars.

Martian Geology

On Mars, we see volcanoes, canyons, and impact basins much like the ones on Earth. The yellows scattered across the map indicate meteor impacts of varying size while the swaths of red indicate volcanoes and their associated lava flows. The varying colors of brown indicate the cratered highlands and midlands that make up most of the southern hemisphere.

The planet appears asymmetric. Most of the southern hemisphere is heavily cratered and resembles the moon’s highlands. In contrast, the northern hemisphere is sparsely cratered and has many large volcanoes.

Mars is approximately one-half the diameter of the Earth, but both planets have the same amount of dry land. This is because the current surface of Mars has no liquid water.

Mars and Earth are very different planets when it comes to temperature, size, and atmosphere, but geologic processes on the two planets are eerily similar. The sheer size of some landforms on Mars would shadow over similar features on Earth because of the lack of water erosion. This lack of erosion has preserved billion year-old geologic features.

The tallest mountain on Mars and in the solar system is Olympus Mons, and it is two and a half times taller than Mt. Everest. A Martian canyon system, called Valles Marineris, is the length of the entire continental United States and three times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Mars Colony: Location, Location, Location

The first step to building a colony is to figure out where the best chance of survival is. For Mars, some researchers have identified the planet’s poles, which contain millennia-old ice deposits. These are thought to contain large amounts of ice, which mars settlers could extract and turn into liquid water.

The poles also host other natural resources, such as carbon dioxide, iron, aluminum, silicon and sulfur, which could be used to make glass, brick and plastic. Furthermore, the planet’s atmosphere contains enough hydrogen and methanol for fuel.

Closing the Distance

The map above represents the culmination of centuries of work which we are lucky enough to view here on a computer, conveniently online for us to appreciate and wonder what life’s like on the surface of Mars.

Who knows what more exploration will reveal.

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Space

Visualizing All Attempted and Successful Moon Landings

Since the beginning of the space race, only four countries have successfully accomplished missions to the moon.

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All successful and attempted moon landings.

Visualizing All Attempted and Successful Moon Landings

Since before Ancient Greece and the first Chinese Dynasties, people have sought to understand and learn more about the moon.

Curiosity and centuries of study culminated in the first moon landing in the 1960s. But there have been many other attempted moon landings, both before and after.

This chart by Preyash Shah illustrates all the moon landings using NASA data since 1966 when Soviet lander Luna 9 touched down.

Race to the Moon

The 1960s and 1970s marked an era of intense competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as they raced to conquer the moon.

During the Cold War, space became a priority as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower, and its political-economic system.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a national goal to have a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.

After several failed attempts from both sides, on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was successful and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

MissionLaunch DateOperatorCountryMission TypeOutcome
Ranger 326-Jan-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Ranger 423-Apr-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Ranger 518-Oct-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.24-Jan-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.33-Feb-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 42-Apr-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.621-Mar-64 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.520-Apr-64 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Kosmos 6012-Mar-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.810-Apr-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 59-May-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 68-Jun-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 74-Oct-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 83-Dec-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 931-Jan-66 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Surveyor 130-May-66 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 220-Sep-66 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 1321-Dec-66 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Surveyor 317-Apr-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 414-Jul-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Surveyor 58-Sep-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 67-Nov-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 77-Jan-68 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Luna E-8 No.20119-Feb-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-8-5 No.40214-Jun-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 1513-Jul-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Apollo 1116-Jul-69NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Kosmos 30023-Sep-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Kosmos 30522-Oct-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Apollo 1214-Nov-69NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna E-8-5 No.4056-Feb-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Apollo 1311-Apr-70NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Partial failure
Luna 1612-Sep-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Luna 1710-Nov-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Apollo 1431-Jan-71NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Apollo 1526-Jul-71NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna 182-Sep-71 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 2014-Feb-72 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Apollo 1616-Apr-72NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Apollo 177-Dec-72NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna 218-Jan-73 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Luna 2316-Oct-75 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderPartial failure
Luna E-8-5M No.41216-Oct-75 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 249-Aug-76 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Chang'e 31-Dec-13 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderOperational
Chang'e 47-Dec-18 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderOperational
Beresheet22-Feb-19 SpaceIL🇮🇱 IsraelLanderSpacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-222-Jul-19ISRO🇮🇳 IndiaLanderSpacecraft Failure
Chang'e 523-Nov-20 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderSuccessful
Hakuto-R Mission 111-Dec-22 ispace🇯🇵 JapanLanderSpacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-314-Jul-23ISRO🇮🇳 IndiaLanderSuccessful
Luna 2510-Aug-23 Roscosmos🇷🇺 RussiaLanderSpacecraft failure

After the Apollo missions, the fervor of lunar exploration waned. From 1976 to 2013, no moon landing attempts occurred due to budget constraints, shifting priorities, and advances in robotic missions.

However, a new chapter in space exploration has unfolded in recent years, with emerging players entering the cosmic arena. With its Chang’e missions, China has made significant strides, landing rovers on the moon and exploring the far side of the moon.

India, too, has asserted its presence with the Chandrayaan missions. In 2023, the country became the 4th nation to reach the moon as an unmanned spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole, advancing the country’s space ambitions to learn more about the lunar ice, potentially one of the moon’s most valuable resources.

Exploring Lunar Water

Since the 1960s, even before the historic Apollo landing, scientists had theorized the potential existence of water on the moon.

In 2008, Brown University researchers employed advanced technology to reexamine lunar samples, discovering hydrogen within beads of volcanic glass. And in 2009, a NASA instrument aboard the India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe confirmed the presence of water on the moon’s surface.

Water is deemed crucial for future space exploration. Beyond serving as a potential source of drinking water for future moon explorations, ice deposits could play a pivotal role in cooling equipment. Lunar ice could also be broken down to produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for breathing, essential for supporting extended space missions.

With a reinvigorated interest in exploring the moon, manned moon landings are on the horizon once again. In April 2023, NASA conducted tests for the launch of Artemis I, the first American spacecraft to aim for the moon since 1972. The agency aims to send astronauts to the moon around 2025 and build a base camp on the lunar surface.

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