Mars is a small, rocky world that's about half the diameter of Earth. Like our home planet, it has seasons, volcanoes, canyons, weather and polar ice caps.
The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 Fahrenheit. Red dust covers most of its surface and oxidised iron particles in the soil are responsible for this distinctive red colour.
Mars has clouds and wind just like Earth, but its sand storms can cover the entire planet in a dusty haze for weeks.
The planet is also home to the largest volcanic mountain in the Solar System (Olympus Mons) and it has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos.
Is there water on Mars?
There are signs that huge floods once overcame the Martian surface some 3.5 billion years ago and this water may have pooled to form shallow oceans or lakes. It is still unclear where the floodwater came from and what happened to it.
However, Mars is now too cold and its atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to exist on the surface for very long. Findings from NASA'S Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) suggest salty liquid water may still flow on Mars.
Are there any rovers on Mars now?
Yes. NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project landed twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in 2004. Both missions were only meant to last three months but Spirit worked for six years, and Opportunity is still active.
Also, check out these amazing images from NASA's Curiosity Rover that's been scouring the planet's surface for more than five years.
Not all missions have been as successful, including the UK's Beagle 2 Mars probe and the Schiaparelli rover, which crashed into the Martian surface last year. But there are hopes for an upcoming rover, which should touch down on the Red Planet in 2020. Schiaparelli and the 2020 rover are part of the wider ExoMars mission from ESA (European Space Agency) and Russian space agency Roscosmos.
NASA has ambitious plans to get humans to Mars in the 2030s and the Mars 2020 mission also plans to answer key questions about the potential for life on Mars.
Extra reading and watching
Here are 10 amazing facts you probably didn't know about the Red Planet and you can find out more about NASA's plans to get to Mars here, or find out more about all the Martian missions (past, present and future) here.
Here's a summary of all NASA's work on the Red Planet:
What is Sunday Science?
Hello. I’m the freelance writer who gets tech. I have two degrees in Physics and, during my studies, I became increasingly frustrated with the complicated language used to describe some outstanding scientific principles. Language should aid our understanding — in science, it often feels like a barrier.
So, I want to simplify these science sayings and this blog series “Sunday Science” gives a quick, no-nonsense definition of the complex-sounding scientific terms you often hear, but may not completely understand.
If there’s a scientific term or topic you’d like me to tackle in my next post, fire an email to email@example.com or leave a comment below. If you want to sign up to our weekly newsletter, click here.
Hello. I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology
And I explain science with Lego in Sunday Science.
Need help with your blog?