1. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars is often called the ‘Red Planet’ due to the iron oxide prevalent on its surface, which gives it a reddish look.
2. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second smallest planet in the Solar System. It has a diameter of about half the Earth, measuring only 6,800 km across. The total mass of Mars is only about 10% the mass of Earth.
3. The first telescopic observation of Mars was done by Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher in 1610. And within a century, astronomers discovered its polar ice caps.
4. Mars has water — today, it is accepted that Mars had abundant water very early in its history. Observations by the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
5. Mars has the second highest known mountain within the Solar System (the tallest on a planet) - the mighty Olympus Mons. Olympus Mons is the youngest of the large volcanoes on Mars, having formed during Mars’s Amazonian Period. It has a height of nearly 22 km (14 mi) by one measure and stands almost three times as tall as Mount Everest’s height above sea level.
6. Mars is the site of Valles Marineris, the greatest gorge on any planet in the Solar System. Valles Marineris was caused when volcanoes erupting around it tore up the land, leaving a huge valley. Stretching over 4,000 km along the equator of Mars, Valles Marineris can be as deep as 7 km in places.
7. Mars has two known moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped. The two moons were discovered by American astronomer Asaph Hall over the course of a week in 1877.
8. Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, which consists of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and trace amounts of water and oxygen.
9. Mars has all four seasons like that of Earth as its axis is tilted away from the Sun.
10. At present, Mars is host to five functioning spacecraft: three in orbit — the Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and two on the surface — Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.