olympus mons Challenges Astronauts On Mars

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Last Tuesday, the twelve astronauts who were researching Mars were confronted by a huge challenge - climbing the tallest mountain in the solar system, Olympus Mons. The astronauts were sent to collect samples of the cooled lava for geological experiments.

These astronauts are part of a space exploration venture called the Mars Global Surveyor mapping mission sponsored by the World Space Academy consisting of members from USA, Russia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan, China and India. The goal of the mission is to collect elevation and surface data that will help explore the possibility of a future life on Mars.

Olympus Mons is located in the southern-cratered terrain of the red planet. The mountain is a volcano and preliminary samples of lava from its flank show that the eruptions that formed the mountain took place over a long period, perhaps over a period consisting of several million years. This massive volcano towers over twenty-seven kilometres above the average surface of Mars.

The astronauts were shocked at the very low air pressure on the immense peak. It was so low that, evacuation had to begin immediately before anyone fell unconscious due to shortage of air. "It was totally unexpected and the design of our space suits and oxygen supply had not accounted for this occurrence - the atmosphere was unbelievably thin and we were all gasping in minutes!" said Derek Lee, an astronaut on the Mars mission. "I almost didn't make it down the huge mountain! Compared to Olympus Mons the other volcanoes were nothing at all!"

The astronauts are expected to return from the space station for one more try very shortly, perhaps as early as within a week. The astronauts will try the same feat, but will bring excess oxygen with them, so they will have more time to locate the rock samples.

So far the astronauts have learned that Mars, called the red planet because of its red soil, has many features similar to that of Earth. This is evident from the many volcanoes, canyon systems, craters and riverbeds.

Interview with Chief Astronaut Bill Hadley, Global Surveyor Mission to Mars

1. Tell us about the Global Surveyor Mars mapping mission.
· This mission is the very first manned mission to Mars so far from Earth.
· The mission is here to gather information on Mars' surface and surface conditions. Part of the study is to see if the red planet is capable of future life as a "permanent space laboratory" for space experiments or perhaps even as a future colony for humans in the distant future.

2. How many crewmembers do you have on this mission?
· We have a total of 12 crewmembers on this mission - three from the U.S, two representing Russia, two from Canada, and one each from Britain, Germany, Japan, China and India. The astronauts were selected for their expertise in geology, meteorology, mountain climbing, enduring cold harsh conditions, computer hardware and programming, medical skills and engineering skills.

3. When did the mission leave Earth for Mars and when will the mission return?
· The mission left earth on January 14th 2025, after several delays due to poor landing conditions expected on Mars. The crew landed on Mars after a journey of 30 hours to the space station ISS. The journey to Mars was another 20 hours. We landed here in the midst of a severe dust storm - conditions were still a little treacherous but the storm subsided shortly thereafter. We will return back to earth January 14th, 2027.

4. Tell us about some of your findings on this mission so far.
The findings of our mission so far (some of which was confirming past hypotheses and data about Earth's red planet neighbour) are:
· The southern region of Mars is cratered and home to many thousands of volcanoes both large and small
· Irregular eroded cliffs characterize the boundary between this volcanic cratered southern region and the northern plains.
· The northern plains have a mix of old cratered highlands and young smooth plains - this region could be a potential site for future missions to Mars
· The oldest terrain on Mars shows evidence of erosion by running water. Even the youngest craters display patterns that indicate sub-surface water or ice. Evidence suggests a former climate on Mars that allowed water to exist on Mars. Even the atmosphere indicates presence of water, although in very small quantities compared to earth. This is a key finding and will be studied further in the next few missions.
· Wind is the main process shaping the surface of the planet Mars today. Wind was suspected even prior to a mission landing on Mars, with astronomers observing changes to the brightness of the planet over time, suspecting wind-borne dust to be clouding Mars' atmosphere.
· The Global Surveyor mapping mission confirmed these winds as it arrived on Mars in the middle of a huge dust storm.

 

A short Fun Quiz on Mars for all ages

1. Similar to Earth, Mars also has polar caps that contain traces of ice and carbon dioxide - True or False?
Answer: True

2. The amount of land on Mars is the same as the amount of land on earth - True or False?
Answer: True - while Mars is half the size of earth, since it has no surface water, the land area is the same.

3. What is the name of the tallest mountain on Mars?
Answer: Olympus Mons

4. Mars' Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain known in the solar system - True or False?
Answer: True

5. What is the diameter of Mars and how big is it in proportion to Earth?
Answer: Mars' diameter is on average 6780 kilometres and roughly half the diameter of earth.

6. New evidence suggests the presence of water and ice on Mars - True or False?
Answer: True

7. How many moons does Mars have? What are they called?
Answer: Mars has two moons - they are called Deimos and Phobos

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