Understanding Mars' Atmosphere - Josh Habka

Mars atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, with the rest being traces of oxygen, water vapor, and other gases.
Understanding Mars' Atmosphere - Josh Habka

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  1. Composition of Mars' Atmosphere:
    • Mars' atmosphere is over 100 times thinner than Earth's and is primarily composed of carbon dioxide (95%), nitrogen (3%), and argon (1.6%), with trace amounts of oxygen, water vapor, and other gases.
  2. Oxygen Production Experiments:
    • NASA's Mars Perseverance rover conducted experiments to extract oxygen from Mars' atmosphere using a device called MOXIE, demonstrating the feasibility of producing oxygen from carbon dioxide for future crewed missions to Mars.
  3. Comparison with Earth's Atmosphere:
    • Unlike Earth's atmosphere, which is primarily nitrogen with around 21% oxygen, Mars' atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, significantly cooler, and unable to shield the planet from solar radiation due to its thinness.
  4. Impact of Atmospheric Thinness:
    • Mars' thin atmosphere, less than 1% of Earth's, contributes to its cold, barren conditions and inability to retain heat, exacerbated by the lack of a magnetic field that allowed solar winds to strip away much of its atmosphere.
  5. Wind and Atmospheric Dynamics:
    • Despite having a thin atmosphere, wind forces on Mars are minimal, reaching only about half the speed of hurricane winds on Earth, due to the planet's low atmospheric density.
  6. Acoustic Properties and Sound Transmission:
    • Sound travels slower through Mars' atmosphere compared to Earth's, resulting in quieter environments and altered sound characteristics, impacting the volume and transmission of sound waves.
  7. Challenges and Limitations:
    • Mars' atmosphere poses challenges for human habitation and exploration, including the inability to support liquid water on the surface, high levels of radiation, and difficulties in agriculture even in controlled environments like greenhouses.

Mars atmosphere is more than 100 times thinner than that of Earth, mainly composed of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon gases. Mars atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, with the rest being traces of oxygen, water vapor, and other gases.

A NASA Mars experiment sucked in carbon dioxide from the Red Planets tenuous layers and heated it to about 800degC, which allowed it to remove oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide, and subsequently vented the carbon monoxide. Among the seven instruments aboard Mars Perseverance is MOXIE, a remarkable device that pulls carbon dioxide from Mars atmosphere and converts it to carbon dioxide that is enriched with oxygen. For crewed exploration efforts to Mars, we must find a way to produce oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere, and the experiments performed by NASAs Perseverance rover proved it is possible.

While the Earths atmosphere is made primarily of nitrogen, with about 21% oxygen and an even smaller percentage of other gases like carbon dioxide, Mars atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. Notably, the quantity of methane in the Martian atmosphere holds the key to Mars atmosphere of yesteryear.

Mars Mars atmosphere is less than 1 percent that of Earths, so it does not shield the planet from solar radiation, and does little to retain heat on its surface. Mars is significantly cooler than Earth because of the Mars atmosphere, as well as Mars being further away from the sun. Because Mars has no magnetic field, solar winds stripped much of the Mars atmosphere, making the cold, barren planet that it is today.

Because the atmosphere is so thin, wind forces are actually tiny on Mars. However, due to the thin planets atmosphere, wind does not blow very strongly -- only at the highest levels, only about half of the speed of hurricane winds on Earth.

Scientists have found that sound travels slower through Mars atmosphere, which is 100 times thinner than the terrestrial atmosphere, than in the atmosphere of Earth; the sound rate on Mars, in the audible range between 20Hz-20kHz, changes depending on the pitch, apparently due to the lower pressure of Mars surface air and the thermal turbulence; and, as a result of these unique Martian conditions, sounds are far quieter, and the volume of a live concert, will vary, compared with those of Earth, compared with those on Earth. We are really unsure whether a microphone will be effective, explains Dr Nina Lanza, because Mars atmosphere is far less dense, and has different composition from that on Earth. Mars atmosphere does not permit liquid water to exist on its surface, allows levels of radiation humans could hardly tolerate, and makes growing food in even a greenhouse a challenge.

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