After hearing about the rovers, satellites, and all of the upcoming manned missions to Mars, have you thought to yourself, “Gee, I wonder what a day would look like on that planet”? If you are a science enthusiast, chances are you probably have. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be too exciting. Unless you were lucky enough to see one of the planet’s massive dust storms, a day on Mars feature a lot of reddish dirt. (Still though, it’s alien reddish dirt, so that’s kind of neat.) However, it would be a completely different story if you visited the planet 4 billion years ago.
It’s not just everyday people who spend their days imagining life on alien worlds. NASA and the Conceptual Image Lab have been thinking a lot about Mars as well. In fact, they thought about it so much that they decided to make a video of Mars from 4 billion years ago. This is, as NASA puts it, “one of the most complex animations [they have] ever produced”. The video (which can be found here) is designed to help scientists who are working on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which launches on the 18th of November. It will look at the gases that are currently on the upper atmosphere of Mars to determine the change within its climate.
In the video you can see mountains, valleys, lakes, and blue skies with clouds. The 2-minute video also shows how scientists believe Mars changed from a beautiful watery planet to parched, reddish desert world. As the video progresses, the lakes dry up, the land changes color, and the clouds cease to exist.
One of our proudest achievements, the Curiosity rover, has been exploring Mars since the 6th of August 2012. Thus far, it has done a phenomenal job. One of its greatest discoveries was the confirmation of the past existence of water on Mars. In fact, in the Gale Crater (where Curiosity is currently located), there is an estimated 1 liter of water within the space of 1 cubic foot (28 liters).
As Laurie Leshin, Dean of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told the The Guardian, “We tend to think of Mars as this dry place – to find water fairly easy to get out of the soil at the surface was exciting to me”. She further stated that “if you took about a cubic foot of the dirt and heated it up, you’d get a couple of pints of water out of that – a couple of water bottles’ worth that you would take to the gym.” Laurie Leshin the lead author on the Science paper that confirmed the existence of water in the soil.