Mars is the most frustrating of the planets. The fourth planet from the sun orbits tantalizingly close to the third planet, Earth. Mars isn’t that much farther from the sun than we are, and its climate shows remarkable similarities to Earth’s. For hundreds of years, telescopic observations suggested the possibility of life, perhaps even the intelligent variety. The proximity of the red planet is deceptive, however. Mars is only about 4,100 miles wide, about half the diameter of our planet. Mars is so small it that shows surface features only when Earth is between Mars and the sun, a condition that astronomers call a Mars opposition. As Earth laps Mars in their cosmic race, for a few weeks every 2 1/2 years or so, Mars is only 35 million to 50 million miles from us, and its polar caps and mysterious green markings become visible.
Mars offers a rare good view The Columbus Dispatch
Landing on Mars possible by 2007, one booster says The Columbus Dispatch
American astronauts could be camping on Mars within seven years if the White House — and Congress — decide to plant the flag. That was the timetable set yesterday at Otterbein College by Robert Zubrin, lead drumbeater for manned exploration of the red planet. He spoke at the college’s 2001 Science Lecture Series. For a decade, Zubrin has promoted his “Mars Direct” plan, which he maintains could put astronauts on Mars in fewer than 10 years — and at an affordable cost. The plan uses current rocket technology and fuel manufactured on the planet itself.
OSU team tackling Mars rovers The Columbus Dispatch
Having trod a career path from Shanghai to Columbus by way of Germany, Hawaii and Canada, Ron Li now wants to navigate Mars. Not that Li has aspirations to kick up the red dust himself. Instead, as a professor of geodetic science at Ohio State University, he’s working to develop the navigational tools to guide robotic rovers across that alien world in 2003 and beyond. Li has proposed that rover maps be made from a series of camera images of the landing area snapped from the spacecraft as it descends. Another option is mapmaking from photographs taken by satellites orbiting Mars.