A new study published in Science this week reaffirms earlier claims that Mars was once a planet that could have supported life. Unfortunately, the combination of solar wind and radiation stripped the planet of its atmosphere, turning it into the barren wasteland it is today.
“We’ve determined that most of the gas ever present in the Mars atmosphere has been lost to space,” said Bruce Jakowsky, principal investigator for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).
The report comes on the heels of earlier data that revealed solar wind is slowly stripping away the Martian atmosphere.
“We’ve seen that the atmosphere erosion increases significantly during solar storms, so we think the loss rate was much higher billions of years ago when the sun was young and more active,” said astronaut John Grunsfeld in an earlier report from 2015.
The current Mars atmosphere is far too cold and thin to support liquid water, which is essential for life. Previous evidence, however, suggests that before the planet’s atmosphere was stripped, it may have been warm enough for water to flow.
“In a broader context, this information teaches us about the processes that can change a planet’s habitability over time,” explained Elsayed Talaat, MAVEN Program Scientist.
Mars may have supported microbial life billions of years ago
It’s crazy to think the planet we know today—dry, dusty, no atmosphere—could have once featured clouds and possibly even an ocean. Even though it doesn’t have the atmosphere to support life, scientists still want to visit the Martian planet and potentially colonize it. While we’re there, it may even be possible to grow food.
You can read up on more details about the latest findings at the source link below.