The Mars Quiz

By: Torrance Grey

The Mars Quiz
Image: Stocktrek Images / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Mars: It fascinates humans like no other planet in our Solar System. You could argue that Saturn rivals it, but Saturn is mostly an object of beauty, because of its dazzling rings. However, that planet isn't solid; it's a gas giant, ruling out the prospect of human habitability or intelligent, human-like life. After all, while "Saturnian" is a real word, it's "Martian" that calls up an immediate visual image of a little green man, possibly with an antenna. Exploration, colonization and war with potential inhabitants has long been a preoccupation for science-fiction writers.

The truth is a little less sexy. NASA and other nations' space agencies have sent orbiting and landing craft to Mars, and these missions have ruled out any sort of life there, although the discovery of water was exciting, as well as the discovery of conditions amenable to very basic microbial life. We stress the words "basic" and "microbial." As Spy magazine put it back in the mid-'90s, when this discovery was made: "Plans for a Martian vogue might be a little premature."

Never mind that -- Mars itself will never be out of vogue! It's our nearest neighbor, the Red Planet, named for the god of war. We won't be happy until we've sent human beings there, as we did the Moon. In fact, one expert is even predicting Mars tourism in the near future. Until that day, take an armchair trip to Mars with our wide-ranging quiz!

Where does Mars fall in the order of the Solar System's planets?
Second
Fourth
Our home, Earth, is the third planet from the Sun. Mars, its neighbor, is in the fourth position, at a fluctuating distance of between 128 million and 150 million miles from the Sun.
Fifth
Sixth

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Mars is named for a god in which mythology?
Babylonian
Greek
We're sorry if you were tripped up by "Greek," but Greek and Roman aren't exactly the same mythologies. Same pantheon (mostly), but different names. In the Greek tradition, the god of war's name is Ares. This is what the Greeks call the planet, btw.
Norse
Roman

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A common nickname for Mars is ...
The Floating World
The Fifth Element
The Final Frontier
The Red Planet
To the naked eye, Mars appears as a reddish star of considerable brightness. This makes it easy to spot Mars, and gives the planet its nickname, which is also the title of more than one science-fiction book and movie.

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What gives Mars its distinctive red color?
The Doppler effect
Iron oxide in the soil
Mars has iron-rich soil. And, as on Earth, iron oxide is reddish in color (think of rust). Martian soil has also been found to be high in perchlorate, a salt that is dangerous to human health. This will be one of many considerations in attempts to colonize Mars.
Refraction of sunlight in the atmosphere
Radioactive isotopes in its atmosphere

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The theoretical inhabitants of this planet were known as what?
Martians
One of the most famous examples of this adjective form is Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles." This is a collection of his pulp stories from the 1940s that involved Earth's colonization of Mars and the conflicts with the Martians who already live there.
Marzoids
Martens
Marsers

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How many moons does Mars have?
One
Two
Mars is a smaller planet than Earth, but it is blessed with twice the number of moons. Their origin is not known, but one theory is that both are asteroids that were drawn into Mars's gravitational pull.
Three
Zero

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What are the names of Mars's moons?
Hestia and Vesta
Io and Calliope
Phobos and Deimos
"Phobos" means "fear" and "deimos" means "dread" in the Greek language. In other words, these are appropriate companions for war, as wherever war goes, these emotions follow along in its wake.
Titan and Thor

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Mars is considered to be what type of planet?
Aquatic
Gaseous
Terrestrial
The first four planets in the solar system are terrestrial planets, meaning they are made of solid geologic material. The other, outer planets are gaseous. There is no "aquatic" or "plasma-based" category, although those are the other two states of matter.
Plasma-based

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How thick is Mars' atmosphere, compared to Earth's?
1 percent as thick
This is one significant barrier to Mars colonization. Atmospheric pressure on Mars is not uniform, but at its densest, it is equal to an elevation of 115,000 feet on Earth. For comparison, Mt. Everest is only 26,000 feet, and the air there is too thin for all but the most well-adapted, fit climbers.
10 percent as thick
50 percent as thick
Twice as thick

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What element makes up about 96 percent of Mars's atmosphere?
Carbon dioxide
While carbon dioxide is vital to biological processes, a nearly entire carbon dioxide atmosphere is not conducive to life. In comparison, Earth's atmosphere is about 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen, with trace gases making up the rest.
Nitrogen
Hydrogen
Oxygen

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True or false: Mars is roughly equal in size to Earth.
True
False
Mars is about half the size of Earth. The only smaller planet in the Solar System is Mercury. The planet's composition is also less dense than that of Earth. Mars, we hate to say it, but you lack substance!

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Mars shares what natural feature with Earth?
An ocean
Clouds
Polar ice caps
Astronomers have long known about the ice caps, which are visible through powerful telescopes. More recently, researchers have learned that there is water vapor in Mars' atmosphere (in trace amounts), and water ice is buried under Martian soil.
None of these

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In addition to water, the ice caps also contain a substantial amount of ice from what substance?
Carbon dioxide
It's not surprising, given that Mars' atmosphere is 96 percent carbon dioxide, this is also part of the planet's ice caps. Perchlorate is a large component of Martian soil, as noted in another question.
Nitrogen
Perchlorate
Sodium

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Mars' gravity is about __ percent as strong as that of Earth.
10
40
Technically, it's 38 percent that of its neighbor. This is a result of Mars' lower density. (Size, in terms of diameter, doesn't matter. Gravity, which is one of the four universal forces, corresponds to mass, not size.
70
Mars has no gravity

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In the 19th century, what observation sparked a belief in intelligent life on Mars?
The canals
Most of the hype arose from a mistranslation. An Italian astronomer noted the presence of "grooves" on the planet's surface, but the Italian word "canali" led English-speakers to believe these were deliberately-dug canals. Hence, a society advanced enough for engineering!
The polar ice caps
Unexplained flashing lights on the surface
Intermittent radio signals

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The Martian "canals" ultimately turned out to be what?
Old riverbeds
Long, horizontal dust devils
Optical illusions
The "dust devil" answer isn't far off. The frequent Martian dust storms, plus atmospheric turbulence on Earth that affected telescope use, created the illusion of dark bands/roads/grooves on Mars' surface. No such feature has been found by Mars landers.
Shadows

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What was the name of the astronomer who discovered the "canals"?
Giovanni Cassini
Galileo Galilei
Hipparchus
Giovanni Schiaparelli
Fun fact: Both the Giovannis are related to famous fashion designers. Cassini's descendant, Oleg Cassini, dressed first lady Jackie Kennedy. Meanwhile, Schiaparelli was related to Elsa Schiparelli, known for her colorful, boundary-pushing designs. Giovanni Schiaparelli was the namesake of a 2016 Mars probe launched by the European Space Agency.

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Put these Mars missions in the correct order:
Curiosity, Viking, Mariner, Opportunity
Mariner, Viking, Opportunity, Curiosity
The Mariners did flybys and orbits, beginning in the late 1960s. The first U.S. lander was a Viking craft. Later came the Opportunity rover, and Curiosity is still operational, as of the writing of this quiz.
Opportunity, Curiosity, Viking, Mariner
Viking, Opportunity, Mariner, Curiosity

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What is the name for the tallest mountain on Mars?
Mount Bradbury
Mons Gagarin
Olympus Mons
Mons Olympus is not only the tallest peak on Mars, it is the second-tallest mountain in the Solar System. Fun fact: the tallest mountain is not on any of the planets, but on the major asteroid Vesta, in the asteroid belt.
Amazonis Planitia

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About how much taller than Everest is Olympus Mons?
Twice as tall
Three times as tall
Mars' Olympus Mons is 22 kilometers tall, or 72,000 feet. Mount Everest, in comparison, is 26,000 feet tall. It is a volcano, and a feature seen by astronomers, and recognized as a mountain, since the early 19th century.
Five times as tall
Ten times as tall

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In the late 1940s, Looney Tunes introduced a character called "____ the Martian." What was his first name?
Jimmy
Mark
Marvin
Marvin originally had no name; he was just referred to as a spaceship commander. His uniform is a homage to the Roman god Mars: It's a Roman style helmet and one-piece garment with a skirt. Fetching!
Zeno

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Which one of these nations has not launched a successful Mars mission?
China
India
Japan
Neither China nor Japan have been successful.
China's Yinghuo-1 did not achieve escape velocity, and Japan's Nozomi failed to reach Mars due to electrical problems in this system. Russia has had successful missions as part of the former Soviet Union, and once with the European Space Agency. India has sent up a functional Mars orbiter.

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Mars exploration is a passion for which entrepreneur?
Bill Gates
Larry Ellison
Elon Musk
Elon Musk (in case you've been living under a rock) is a South African-born inventor and businessman. His SpaceX corporation has been a leader in rocketry, with a number of firsts to its name.
Larry Page

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True or false: Like the moon, Mars has a number of impact craters on its surface.
True
Earth does not suffer from this problem because of its rich atmosphere, which both slows down meteors and causes them to burn up and disintegrate. Mars has a much thinner atmosphere, making it comparable to Earth's moon, which has none.
False

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True or false: Martian missions, by the U.S. and other nations, have had a fairly high success rate.
True
False
Martian missions have had a relatively high failure rate, and this is true across the board. In addition to USA's NASA, countries that have sought to explore Mars via flyby, orbit or landing include Russia, China, Japan, India and the European Space Agency, all of wheich have lost craft or experienced failures to even launch.

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Which was the first nation to attempt a Mars mission?
China
Canada
The Soviet Union
The Soviet Union got off to a strong start in what the United States came to call "the Space Race." This includes ambitious plans to go to Mars. However, it was NASA which first made a successful flyby of Mars, with the Mariner 4 craft.
The United States

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In what year did NASA's Opportunity stop responding to signals?
2000
2005
2014
2018
The Opportunity rover exceeded everyone's expectations for it. Initially intended to function for 8,100 days on the surface of Mars, it operated for 459,990 days, more than 55 times the length of its planned mission. Kudos!

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According to a late-1960s movie, "Mars Needs ..."
Chocolate
Love
A Spaceport
Women
It might not be accurate to call 1967's "Mars Needs Women!" a cult classic, but it certainly has all the hallmarks: a low budget, silly dialogue, and (our favorite) a go-go dancer character named "Bubbles" Cash. Who could ask for anything more?

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What is the "Face on Mars"?
A geographic feature resembling a human face
This formation on a hill in the Cydonia region is widely considered to be a trick of light and shadow, as photos taken from different angles do not show anything like a face. Still, some people claimed it as evidence for an advanced civilization, who created it as a way to communicate with extra-Martian observers. (In other news: Early Etruscans deliberately shaped Italy like a boot, so that aliens would know that humans had legs.)
A feature in the ice cap resembling a cat's face
A smooth spot for landing spacecraft
A Ray Bradbury short story

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What color is the sky on Mars?
Blue, like Earth's
Black and starry even in daytime
Greenish
Dusty gold-brown
Of course, color is a function of light; even Earth's blue sky shifts from bright blue to pale blue to almost white in places. Likewise, Mars' sky has described as "tawny" or golden, and it can be pinkish when dust storms throw up a lot of iron-rich soil particles.

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The largest dust storms on Mars can cover how much of the planet?
An entire quadrangle
Several quadrangles
An entire hemisphere
All of it
Compared to storms on Earth, whether of dust, sand or water, this is an amazing phenomenon. But astronomic observations have shown that all of Mars becomes darker and more reddish in color during these dust storms, meaning that they encompass virtually the entire planet.

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Who created a Mars lander named the Beagle 2?
England
This craft was a joint project between the UK and the European Space Agency, which provides rocketry and launch services for member nations. The Beagle was named after Charles Darwin's ship. It was launched in 2003; unfortunately, contact was lost after landing.
France
The United States
India

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War with Mars was the theme of which H.G. Wells story?
The Red Room
The War in the Air
War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells was a writer who worked in a number of genres, but he's best known for his science fiction. "War of the Worlds," about a clash between Earth and Mars, has been made into a movie more than once. The 2005 adaptation, with Tom Cruise, scrapped the Martian angle, probably due to current knowledge about life on Mars (or, rather, the lack thereof).
The Island of Doctor Moreau

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Who discovered the moons of Mars?
Tycho Brahe
Galileo Galilei
Asaph Hall
Hall made this discovery in 1877, centuries after Galileo made note of the moons of Jupiter. Why such a long delay? Well, remember that Mars is the second-smallest planet, and its moons are even smaller. A powerful telescope was required, despite Mars' proximity to the Earth.
Subrahmandan Chandrasekar

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Elon Musk predicts that Mars tourism will be a thing by what year?
2024
That sounds really optimistic to us, but who are we to contradict the man who launched a Tesla roadster into solar orbit? Musk estimates that a Mars tourism program will cost about $10 billion to develop. No word on how much a ticket will cost.
2030
2035
2050

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