November 28 is Red Planet Day, a day to celebrate and learn more about the Red Planet - Mars. The planet is called so because it appears red in color.
The date of the unofficial holiday commemorates the day in 1964 when Mariner 4, a robotic interplanetary probe was launched by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Close-up of Mars
In the 8 months it was on its mission, the Mariner 4 became the first spacecraft to successfully fly by Mars. It also gave the world the first close-up images of Mars. Since then several exploratory missions have been sent to Mars to gather data about the planet.
Today, 5 spacecrafts orbit Mars and 2 spacecrafts - the Curiosity Rover and the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity - are on the planet's surface. All 7 send incredible amount of data about the planet back to astronomers on Earth.
Similar to Earth
Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is the seventh smallest planet in the Solar System. Similar to Earth in many ways - it has the same rotational period and seasonal cycles - Mars has 2 moons, Deimos and Phobos, and has the largest volcano, Olympus Mons, in the Solar System.
Because of its similarity to Earth, many astronomers and scientists believe that at some point in its history Mars may have been a hospitable planet for life.
Exploration of Mars has been high on the agenda of the space programs of many countries. NASA, the American space agency has estimated that it could send humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s.
How to Celebrate?
Learn more about the planet and its environment.
Join a local astronomy club and see if you can get a glimpse of the planet.
Did You Know…
…that the reason Mars appears red is because its surface is rich in iron oxide or rust?