Mars has established a pretty pervasive image for itself. It's the big Red Planet. It's the Clifford the Dog of space. You don't confuse it with all those other, less glamorous, planets. Still, Mars isn't all that it seems. Scratch the surface and it appears to have more in common with the skin tone of an elephant than the ruddy glow of a tomato.
The Curiosity Rover recently broke new ground by drilling into a rock sample, the first time such an activity has been accomplished on a planet other than Earth. What lay beneath wasn't the familiar rust color of the surface, but a decidedly dull gray.
This isn't too surprising when you consider how Mars got its blushing good looks. The dusky red-orange color of the planet comes from the large amount of iron oxide on the surface. Yep, it's pretty much just rust. All we really need to return Mars to its original color is some WD-40 and a good scrub brush.
Mars isn't in any danger of losing its "Red Planet" designation, but it's fascinating to peek underneath and see what a true space celebrity looks like without its makeup. I guess that makes the Curiosity rover some kind of cosmic paparazzi.
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