Mars Activities In SFS
Mars has a tenuous atmosphere, that can be used to slow down ships. Parachutes are useful, but usually will not slow down a spaceship completely. A good advice is to use a few engine bursts before touchdown. Also, the Martian atmosphere will not be enough to slow down a ship approaching with high velocity. It is required to use some engine burns to decrease speed. Most players first achieve low Mars orbit, before descending. It is wise to use landing legs. If the ship is not properly slowed down, the legs might get destroyed, without damaging the engines.
Mars has little gravity, which makes liftoff easy. Atmosphere friction will not significantly slow down a ship.
There are two moons surrounding Mars, with very low gravity. Exploring them is very easy and requires only little fuel. This can be done like a bonus after a successful Mars surface mission. Also, these tiny moons are excellent places for building bases and joining ships.
Sending a ship to Mars consumes a little bit more fuel then sending one to Venus. However, because Mars is further away from the Sun then Earth, returning home will cost less fuel.
There are many space missions that can be achieved around Mars, without actually touching the planet:
Flyby missions just try to get as close as possible to Mars, entering or not its Sphere of Influence. These intended or failed missions still can be continued. If the ship still has some fuel left, it can try to return to Earth, to save life of the astronauts (see Heliocentric Orbit Activities for details). Also, firing the engine in various points (a practice known as deep space maneuvers), it is possible to finally reach Mars. However, the probe might not have enough fuel left to return home.
Orbiting Mars should be tried before an attempt to land. Once a ship successfully orbited Mars and returned to Earth, you can be confident to send a manned ship.
Phobos & Deimos are the two little moons of Mars. Their very low gravity makes them an excellent target. Because they are so small, it is a bit tricky to enter their spheres of influence. It is very easy to flyby them. With very little fuel you can orbit or land on any of the moons. However, little care must be taken because of their very low gravity. The engines must run very low. Any attempt to run a rover on the moons is very risky.
See also Phobos & Deimos Activities.
Mars Space Station can be easily built on Phobos or Deimos. Because of the very little gravity, and the small size, it is easy to make ships land very close one to each other. Small ships can be merged very easy this way.
There are many ways to get to Mars. There are one-way and return missions.
One Way Missions
Main article: Mars Landing Mission.
Just as both NASA and the Soviet space agency did many times, one way, unmanned probes, can be sent to Mars. However, with a rarefied atmosphere, landing on Mars is a bit tricky.
Hard landings are common if the builder forgot to add a parachute or if the parachute failed to open. After the impact, nothing is left functional. Even with a parachute, this might happen if the ship entered directly from a heliocentric orbit, without slowing down.
Nearly soft landings occur when only the parachute is used, without an engine burn before touchdown. They can damage landing legs, engines or fuel tanks. After the impact, the ship will most often fall and become unable to liftoff.
In addition, there are soft landings. These missions bring in new settlers, equipment for building a base or a colony and science payload.
Mars Return Missions
Main article: Mars Return Mission
It is relatively easy to reach Mars or any of its moons and then to return Earth. A large rocket (as big as one can build with the free program) will do the task. Even more, many players managed to land on Mars and on Mercury with the same ship.