Our knowledge of Mars, past and present

For 20 years, the American astronomer Percival Lowell had one abiding passion--the planet Mars. He studied it as no other earthling ever had, and although he has been dead for nearly a half century, much of our present knowledge of the "red planet" comes from his findings. His observations formed the basis for his books: Mars, then Mars and Its Canals, Mars as the Abode of Life, The Evolution of Worlds, The Solar System, and The Genesis of the Planet. "Conditions may exist there under which our wildest fancies may be commonplace facts," he wrote.

Now, we have THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) orbiting the red planet.

The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) is an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. It combines a 5-wavelength visual imaging system with a 9-wavelength infrared imaging system. Mars Odyssey launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 7, 2001 and arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001. It spent the next several months achieving a circular mapping orbit by aerobraking (dipping into the atmosphere to slow and shrink the orbit). Aerobraking concluded in early February 2002, and primary mapping operations began a few weeks later. The spacecraft is in a 2-hour orbit around Mars. As of 2015, it had completed 60,000 orbits of the planet Mars.

Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars

VASTS Spacegrant

VASTS Summer Academy 2012

Our Mars Elevation ("MOLA--Mars Orbital Altimeter Laser") is pictured is use by Virginia NASA students.
Watch video

MOLA Research Articles

The Global Topography of Mars and Implications for Surface Evolution
Possible Ancient Oceans on Mars: Evidence from Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter Data

Activity Code

QR code

HINT: If you are viewing this page from one our Real World Globe activities please make sure the QR code you scanned matches the QR code on this page.

Download free QR Reader/Scanner

Products for Mars Activities

Check out the following globes by Real World Globes.