Jenni: Wow, I didn’t know you could do that, Tim!
Jenni: Hi, I’m Jenni.
Tim: And I’m Tim.
Jenni: And we are here to get some of my questions about Mars answered.
Tim: Mars: it’s an awesome planet that’s right next door.
Jenni: Right next door? Really?
Tim: Well, not right next door, but it’s close.
Jenni: It’s pretty close.
Tim: Mars, it’s one of our closest neighbours in the solar system, and there’s a lot of signs that there used to be a lot of water at the surface, and so if you can understand what Mars is like now and what it used to be like, it tells us how planets form and change over time.
Jenni: How is it similar to Earth?
Tim: It’s got weather, the day length is about the same, and there’s different climates, there’s seasons, it’s tilted about the same as Earth right now.
Jenni: How is it different than Earth?
Tim: Well, it’s a lot smaller, first of all. Another big difference is the atmosphere is really, really thin. It’s only about 1% as thick as the Earth’s atmosphere. It is bone-dry at the surface right now, and it’s a lot colder.
Tim: We actually detected snow on Mars using a Canadian instrument on the Mars Phoenix mission.
Jenni: Wow, trust the Canadians to find the snow, huh?
Tim: Who else would do it?
Jenni: Okay, tell me more about some interesting features that are on Mars. What do we see now that we really want to study?
Tim: There’s lots.
Jenni: There’s lots?
Tim: It’s an amazing planet. There’s the largest volcano in the solar system, called Olympus Mons; it’s over three times the height of Mount Everest. Not active anymore, but it’s a giant, giant volcano. There’s a huge valley that’s about five – over five kilometres deep called Valles Marineris. There’s features that tell you where there might be ice under the ground. There’s all kinds of incredible things – old lakes, old deltas, lots of craters.
Tim: It’s one of the only places in the solar system where we think humans could actually survive. There’s lots and lots of water trapped right under the surface, in the form of ice, and so water is way too heavy to carry with you if you’re ever going to another planet. So you need a water source.
Jenni: You need it to be there. Yeah.
Tim: Right! And so Mars has that for us, ready to go!
Jenni: Well, thanks for telling me about Mars!
Tim: Well, thanks for asking about Mars. I like Mars.
Jenni: Yeah, we should go!
Tim: Okay. Cool!