Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and the second closest to Earth. It is known as the red planet due to its reddish color, which is likely the result of numerous dust storms. It is a rocky planet with a thin atmosphere, and its features are very similar to that of our own planet. Mars has long captivated the imagination of humans and played an important part in many cultures throughout history.

History of Mars

In ancient times, the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all believed that Mars was a living god and that it held significance in their societies. For example, the Babylonian god of war, Nergal, was often identified with the planet, and the Romans named the planet after their God of War.

The first scientific investigation of Mars began with the work of pioneering astronomers such as Galileo in the 17th century. Galileo was the first to observe the planet through a telescope and he noted that it had polar ice caps, two moons, and a day that lasted twice as long as that of Earth.

In the 19th century, the first detailed studies of Mars began. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli mapped out the surface features of Mars and in 1877 incorrectly assumed that the planet had a system of canals. In 1895, American astronomer Percival Lowell also speculated that there were canals on Mars, based in part on Schiaparelli's work.

By 1965, the exploration of Mars had advanced considerably to the point where the United States sent Mariner 4, a spacecraft designed to take photos of Mars from close range. Mariner 4 provided the first close-up photos of a planet beyond the Earth and revealed that the theories of canals were unfounded. 

In 1971, the Soviet Union put the first spacecraft in orbit of Mars, which returned pictures of the entire surface of the planet. This allowed for a detailed examination of the planet and discoveries such as Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system.

The exploration of Mars continued in the 1990s with the Mars Global Surveyor, which provided comprehensive maps of the entire planet and resolution maps of the surface that was 10 times better than Mariner 4. This mission also allowed for the detection of minerals that may have once been in an aqueous environment.

In 1996, the first spacecraft to ever land and operate on the surface of Mars was launched - the Pathfinder spacecraft. This mission was able to relay images and data back to Earth and confirmed theories of large sedimentary deposits on the Martian surface, which are thought to be evidence of an ancient ocean.

More recently, a series of spacecraft designed to explore Mars have been launched in an effort to further understand the planet. These spacecraft have included the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The Spirit and Opportunity rovers explored different regions of Mars and discovered striking deposits that indicate that Mars once may have had enough liquid water to form rivers, streams, and lakes.


The history of Mars is fascinating and allows us to understand how our beliefs of a distant planet have changed through time. Today, the exploration of Mars continues with the rovers and probes that have been sent to further unlock the secrets of this distant planet. Although much has been discovered, there is still much more to learn about the red planet.