NASA’s first rover mission to Mars could have stumbled upon a dried up extraterrestrial ocean 22 years ago.
At the time, the images that the rover took of the area were disputed with alternative views that the indents in the terrain were too shallow to be a spillover area for an ancient ocean.
New research led by Planetary Science Institute senior scientist Alexis Rodriguez suggests that there was in fact an ocean on mars and he has reanalysed the previous research to prove it.
The first rover sent to Mars by Nasa was called Sojourner and it was taken there by the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft in 1997.
Sojourner was sent to Mars to test the Martian mega-flood hypothesis which suggested that approximately 3.4 billion years cataclysmic floods sculpted gigantic channels into surface of Mars.
The rover only managed to image areas which were ten times shallower than those estimated by the hypothesis and that’s why some scientists argued that these channels were created by debris or lava flows and not water.
Nasa sent the first rover to Mars in 1997[/caption]
Rodriguez said: “Our paper shows a basin, with roughly the surface area of California, that separates most of the gigantic Martian channels from the Pathfinder landing site.
“Debris or lava flows would have filled the basin before reaching the Pathfinder landing site. The very existence of the basin requires cataclysmic floods as the channels’ primary formational mechanism.”
The researchers simulated the cataclysmic flood hypothesis and suggested that there would have been an ‘inland sea’ with shallow spillovers that became the area later detected near the Pathfinder’s landing site.
The landscape of Mars has lots of deep crevices and craters[/caption]
How long does it take to get to Mars?
It's not that short of a trip…
- There’s an immense distance between Earth and Mars, which means any trip to the red planet will take a very long time
- It’s also made more complicated by the fact that the distance is constantly changing as the two planets rotate around the sun
- The closest that the Earth and Mars would ever be is a distance of 33.9million miles – that’s 9,800 times the distance between London and New York
- That’s really rare though: the more useful distance is the average, which is 140million miles
- Scientists on Earth have already launched a whole bunch of spacecraft to (or near) Mars, so we have a rough idea of how long it takes with current technology
- Historically, the trip has taken anywhere from 128 to 333 days – admittedly a huge length of time for humans to be on board a cramped spacecraft.
The potential space sea bed is said to resemble the Aral Sea on Earth because they both lack distinct shorelines.
Co-author of the research paper Bryan Travis said: “Our numerical simulations indicate that the sea rapidly became ice-covered and disappeared within a few thousand years due to its rapid evaporation and sublimation.”
The researchers believe that if the sea existed it could have contained life that future missions could aim to find sedimentary evidence of.
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Nasa ‘explored edges of ancient Martian ocean the size of California’ with a Mars rover in 1997 – but couldn’t prove it at the time