Few places possess a more mystical pull than this rust-red rock, 34 million miles (54.6 million kilometres) away. Even thousands of years ago, ancient civilisations were speculating about what might be up there (hint: it usually had something to do with fire or blood).
But step beyond the legend and you’ll find strange icy lands that transcend your wildest imaginings, with stark plateaux, windswept deserts, prehistoric craters, towering volcanoes and dune fields the size of Luxembourg, all wrapped up in a generous coating of pervasive dust the consistency of talcum powder. This is a destination where it never rains (it can’t, since all water is instantly vaporised), the greenhouse effect is a good thing and you’re guaranteed not to bump into your boss.
On Mars, sunsets are a shimmering blue and the Earth is nothing more than a marbled dot among the stars. And whether you’re hunting for alien life or skiing across lakes of frozen carbon dioxide, everywhere you go, whatever you do – you’ll be the first. It will take your breath away. Though admittedly that could be down to the lack of oxygen.
How to get there
After centuries of dreaming, it’s finally happening. If all goes well, Space X entrepreneur Elon Musk plans to send the first batch of tourists hurtling towards the Red Planet by 2022.
But in case you don’t have a spare $10bn squirreled away for a ticket, there might be another way: exploring Mars vicariously. This is the very real possibility, currently being explored by Nasa, of exploring Mars with nothing more than a robot and a virtual reality headset You can see how it was inspired by an underwater explorer in the video below.