Buzz Aldrin believes that regular, affordable travel between Earth and Mars is possible by using a kind of space station ‘shuttle’ that travels between the two worlds on a continuous loop, using the gravity of the two planets for propulsion.
In his Roadmap to Mars, Aldrin suggests that, once in place, a system of cycling spacecraft, with its dependable schedule and low sustaining cost, would open the door for routine travel to Mars and a permanent human presence on the red planet. 'Its long-term economic advantages make it less susceptible to cancellation by congressional or presidential whim', he explains. 'In effect, this system would go a long way toward politician-proofing the Mars program.'
The key advantage of a permanently orbiting spacecraft, or Cycler, is that it must be accelerated only once. After its initial boost into a solar orbit swinging by both Mars and Earth, the Cycler coasts along through space on its own momentum, with only occasional nudges of thrust needed to stay on track. As the Cycler passes Earth, astronauts can simply hop aboard like a commuter joining train. The Cycler then speeds on to Mars where he/she can get off and Earth-bound passengers can get on for the return loop home.
'That's the only way we'll ever succeed in taking mankind's next giant leap' says Buzz, 'a subway-in-the-sky between our planet and our future second home.'
There is every reason to think that in the coming years Mars and its mysteries will become increasingly familiar to the inhabitants of the Planet Earth.
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun – around 230 million miles (370, 149km) away - and is around half the diameter of Earth, making it the second smallest planet in the solar system (after Mercury). A Martian day is only slightly longer than ours, at 24 hours and 39 minutes. However, the Martian year is nearly double that of the Earth’s at 686.98 days. It has two small moons called Phobos and Deimos, but it is suspected that there may be smaller moons and possibly a dust ring between the two.
The average temperature on Mars is around -63°C (-81.4°F); about the same as the average winter temperature at the Earth’s South Pole. However, temperatures can vary from highs of 35°C in summer daytime to -143° degrees at the poles in winter. Mars receives only 43% of the sunshine that we get but has no protective ozone layer or magnetosphere so the amount of ultraviolet radiation striking the surface is much higher than on Earth. Consequently, the risk of an otherwise healthy person developing cancer after 1,000 days on Mars lies somewhere between 1% and 19%.
Mars has very powerful and destructive dust storms; the largest that we know of in the solar system. They can cover the whole planet, driven by winds of up to 200kmh (124mph). NASA regards them as the main risk to any future manned expedition to Mars. Another hazard is static electricity; Mars is so dry that an astronaut walking about could potentially become ‘a huge shock waiting to happen’. NASA has even had to build ‘reverse lightning rods’ for its Pathfinder spacecraft.
My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive.
Mars's moons are shaped roughly like potatoes.
Mars's surface is not red, it is the colour of butterscotch.
The largest crevice known to man is Valles Marineris a 4,500km long canyon on Mars.
The first music ever to be played on Mars (that we are aware of) was a song called Reach For the Stars, which was played back by Nasa's Curiosity rover in 2012 as part of a collaboration between NASA and music producer and Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am’s educational foundation.
Had the British Beagle 2 spacecraft survived the landing in 2003, the first music on Mars would have been a track by British band Blur that was based on the Fibonacci series of numbers. The song was described by bassist Alex James as: ‘... kind of like a musical cave painting, a ponderous, clear tune.’
Frank Sinatra’s most famous song My Way has identical chords and the same grand Broadway feeling as David Bowie’s Life on Mars? but this is more than just a coincidence. In 1968 Bowie wrote some English lyrics for a French song called Comme, D’Habitude. He called this new song Even A Fool Learns To Love. But then the rights to Comme D’Habitude were bought by Canadian songwriter Paul Anka who wrote his own lyrics and called it My Way. Bowie’s Life On Mars? was recorded using exactly the same chord sequence and was accompanied by a cheeky sleeve note on the album that says: ‘Inspired by Frankie’.
It's not going to do any good to land on Mars if we're stupid.
Curiosity, the robot rover on Mars, was put in protective mode and did not collect any new data during US Government shutdown in 2013.
A basketball-sized rock found by Mars rover Opportunity in 2005 was the first meteorite ever discovered on another planet.
Cairo is Arabic for 'Mars'.
The Martians were a Roman legion who worshipped the god Mars.
Sunsets on Mars are blue.
There is a Crewe Crater on Mars which is named after the Cheshire town.