Mars is often touted as the only possible alternative planet for humans to live on, and for the most part, this is definitely true. The potential sources of water and similar geographical landscapes suggest that Mars is actually pretty similar to Earth in a lot of ways. However, one of the biggest obstacles and differences between the two is the surface temperature of the planet. So, just how hot is Mars on the surface, and how would that compare to life on Earth? That’s what we’re going to run through quickly now.
What is the surface temperature of Mars?
The average surface temperature on the planet Mars is approximately -63 °c. However, the surface temperature can vary a lot depending on the time of day it is. At a high, it get get to around 20°c, but it can get as cold as -125°c during the Winter.
Mars actually has the most similar seasons to Earth out of any other planet in the solar system, but they’re still quite different. Whilst Earth orbits the Sun in 365 days, it takes Mars almost twice as long to complete one full orbit around the Sun. This means that in turn, the seasons in Mars last twice as long as they do on Earth, as it has a very similar axial tilt too.
One of the main struggles with Mars in comparison to Earth and Venus is that the planet has very little atmosphere. This means that when it does get heat from the Sun, it doesn’t retain the heat for long. Mars only has around 1 or 2% of the atmospheric pressure we have on Earth, so even though the Sun does reach the planet, the lack of a “greenhouse effect” is really a problem.
Something else to think about related to weather on the planet Mars is not just the temperature that the planet has, but also the potential storms. Mars is well known for its infamous dust storms which have interrupted explorations, most recently with NASA’s Opportunity rover, which became completely covered in dust. There are many storms across the planet, with a large storm that spreads across the planet occurring every 5-6 Earth years (only 2.5-3 years on Mars).
One good aspect of things here is that generally winds on Mars are generally not too bad, and reach around 60mph, which is much less than what we experience on Earth. You can read about more facts about the planet Mars here. So, there are some positives about the Martian weather; but that’s not all we have to think about.
Another reason why moving to Mars would be difficult: A lack of oxygen
We know that there are some theories out there about the potential to move to Mars in the long term, with SpaceX frequently stating that they’ll eventually make it to Mars one day. However, even if humans did one day make the move to Mars, there would be some additional obstacles to overcome as well as the weather.
The clear and obvious one is that Mars doesn’t have oxygen in the atmosphere like we do on Earth. Oxygen makes up around 20% of the Earth’s atmosphere, and if we compare that to the less than 0.2% oxygen that we get on Earth, then we have more than 100x the oxygen here on Earth.
The put it quite simply; we wouldn’t be able to breathe on Mars. So yes, this is a massive obstacle to overcome, with the only real solution being to bring our own oxygen with us to the planet, or find a way to convert the carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere into oxygen instead – this could be possible using a process called electrolysis.
In conclusion, it’s no surprise that the surface temperature of Mars is much colder than on our planet, as it’s a much greater distance from the Sun. Whilst on average it is more than 1 AU away from us, it can get as close as 0.4AU from the Earth, so there’s a good reason why astronomers often refer to us as neighbours or brothers. However, the fact still remains that at its current climate, it would be tough for humans to survive with Mars’ current surface temperature.