Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It’s well known that Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is a destination scientists really want to visit as it is the most Earthlike of all the planets and there are good indications that life may have evolved in Mars’s distant past, but it is also an excellent place for the adventurous tourist.
Mars is home to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system. At 3 times the height of Mt Everest, Olympus Mons is so big that from the peak you would not be able to see the base as the Mountain is wider than the observable horizon.
The summit of Olympus Mons is so high that the atmospheric pressure is just 5% of the average Martian atmosphere, as opposed to Mt. Everest where the pressure is about third of the pressure at sea-level.
The low atmospheric pressure means you would have to wear a pressure suit for the whole assent but you would earn bragging rights over other mountaineers who only climb little peaks like Everest.
If mountain climbing isn’t your thing, you can head East to Valles Marineris, the largest canyon system in the solar system. At more than 4,000 km long it would stretch across the United States.
At its lowest point Valles Marineris is 7 km deep, so deep that it is the only place in the solar system outside the Earth where liquid water could exist on the surface. (In all other places including the rest of Mars the atmosphere is too thin making water sublimate, going from ice to vapor without reaching the liquid stage, or too hot like Venus.) Currently no liquid water exists there, as the atmosphere is too dry.
Out of this world Spelunking
On the flanks of Arsia Mons, Mars’s second largest volcano, several caves have been discovered dubbed “The Seven Sisters”. Cave entrances measure from 100 m to 252 m wide and they are believed to be at least 73 m to 96 m deep. No one knows how long these caves are and they are surely home to some unique rock formations and even possibly life-forms.
Watch a Moonrise and Moonset at the same time.
After spending the day exploring, Mars offers some great views. It has two small Moons, Phobos and Deimos, Phobos rises in the West and sets in the East crossing the sky in 11 hours. In contrast Deimos rises in the East like Earth’s moon. Deimos Crosses the sky in a leisurely 2.7 days. So at several times you can see Deimos rising on the horizon as Phobos sets.
Views of Earth
From Mars you can see both the Earth and the Moon clearly giving you a view of the double planet system that can’t be seen on the surface of any other planet.
Things to talk to your Travel Agent about.
Although Mars has both an atmosphere and water, the atmosphere is too thin to breath and the water is either trapped in the soil or frozen at the poles. Make sure these amenities are included in your stay.
Check for a fast ship. Going just a little faster than the Apollo spacecraft, a ship could reach the optimum transfer orbit which would take roughly 6 months, If energy was no concern it would be possible to cut that down to a few months.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like the rest of the Space Tourism Series:
Moon: Tranquility Base
Ganymede: Jupiter's Largest Moon
Titan: Great Atmosphere