NASA hopes to get astronauts living on Mars by 2030; before then, rovers have explored the red planet and revealed some of its secrets.
They include NASA’s Perseverance mission, which looks for signs of ancient microbial life, and Curiosity, which studies the deep interior of Mars.
Here are five exciting discoveries about Mars that have been found in recent years.
March 1 ‘Lost Lake and River Delta
Since 2013, scientists have had evidence that water once floated on Mars when NASA’s Curiosity rover found slippery, rounded pebbles – like those seen in Earth’s rivers – on the surface of Mars.
Recently, it was discovered that the Jezero crater area was once flooded with water and was home to an ancient river delta.
A 2021 paper on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission revealed more details about Jezero’s watery past.
The rover’s images showed “steep slopes called escarpments or scarpments in the delta, which are formed by sediment that collects at the mouth of an ancient river that long ago fed the crater lake,” NASA noted.
In discussing the research, Nicolas Mangold, a Perseverance researcher and lead author of the paper, called the discovery a “key observation that enables us to confirm the presence of a lake and a river delta at Jezero.”
2. Marsh quake
In July 2021, scientists discovered new details about Mars’ makeup thanks to NASA’s Insight probe.
The probe, which landed on Mars in 2018, has a seismometer that can detect vibrations underground. And as a result, was able to take the first shot of a Marsquake.
Based on Insight’s data, scientists determined that Mars’ crust could be 12 miles to 23 miles. Earth, which is almost twice the size of Mars, has a crust that ranges from a few miles to more than 45 miles.
According to NASA, the three articles based on the seismometer’s data are published in Science, “provided details about the depth and composition of Mars’ crust, mantle, and core, including confirmation that the planet’s center has melted. Earth’s outer core has melted while its inner core is solid; scientists will continue to use InSight’s data to determine whether the same applies to Mars. “
Scientists now believe that Mars’ core has melted, but they have yet to determine whether Mars has a solid inner core like Earth’s.
3. Volcanic super eruptions
Scientists recently found evidence of thousands of “super eruptions”, the most violent volcanic eruptions known.
To do so, they studied the topography and mineral composition of part of the Arabia Terra region of Mars’ northern hemisphere.
An article published in the journal Geophysical research letters in July 2021 paints a vivid picture:
“These explosions sprayed water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air and tore through the surface of Mars over a period of 500 million years about 4 billion years ago.”
Periods of renewable water
Mars rock samples give clues as to where groundwater – potentially conducive to microbial life – may have once been found on Mars over long distances.
NASAs Perseverance rover collected its first samples from the Jezero crater in early September, and the results astonished many scientists.
“It looks like our first rock reveals a potentially habitable renewable environment,” said Ken Farley of Caltech, project researcher for the mission, later that month. “It’s a big deal that the water was there for a long time,” he added.
5. Regional dust storms dry out Mars
Regional dust storms “play a major role in drying out” Mars, NASA announced in August 2021.
Scientists believe that Mars contained much more water billions of years ago, but are less sure why the water escaped.
Using three spacecraft, however, scientists discovered one reason: the storms are warming higher altitudes of the cold atmosphere.
“In the higher regions of Mars, where the atmosphere is sparse, water molecules are left vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation, which breaks them down into their lighter components of hydrogen and oxygen,” NASA explained
“Hydrogen, which is the lightest element, is easily dropped into space, where oxygen either escapes or settles back to the surface.”