China’s Mars orbiter and rover have together captured possible evidence of an ancient ocean on the Red Planet — signs that could bolster case that Earth’s dried out neighbor had a lush, watery past.
As China’s state-run CGTN news channel reports, the country’s Zhurong rover and accompanying Tianwen-1 orbiter collected data from Mars’ vast Utopia Planitia plain that includes mineral information suggesting water was once present on the surface.
Specifically, scientists from the China National Space Administration say they’ve found hydrated minerals in Mars’ “duricrust” ground layer, in what they’re calling a sign of “substantial liquid water activity” in distant the history.
Scientists across the world have long speculated that water once flowed on Mars, and many rover missions have sent robots searching for evidence of such.
While there’s no water on the Martian surface today, newly-found evidence suggests that it may have been there longer than previously thought. Over the last year, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found evidence of water flowing much more recently on the Red Planet — perhaps two or 2.5 billion years ago, as opposed to prior estimates that had put the end of water on Mars at around three billion years ago.
Billions of years is a long time to go without water, but as we continue to find evidence of it in the ancient history of Mars, we’ll learn ever more about what our neighboring planet used to be like — and, perhaps, what our future holds.
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