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Water in Mars History

on June 5, 2010

BBC News: “Mars Minerals Point to Warmer and Wetter PastYet another discovery suggests that the history of Mars was a wet one.

NASA’s Spirit rover has already discovered possible evidence of water on Mars, as we reported in November 2008. And although the rover is all but lost now—see our January mention—scientists have at last cleaned up data collected by Spirit back in 2005. According to the team, the data shows more evidence of a once-wet Mars.

Data shows more evidence of a once-wet Mars.

The data comes from Spirit’s time in the Columbia Hills of Mars’s Gusev Crater. Dust from the Red Planet had obstructed one of the rover’s instruments, so the data Spirit gathered was, in a way, contaminated. Since then, however, a research team led by NASA’s Richard Morris has carefully calibrated the data to account for the dust, revealing that what Spirit saw were rocks rich in carbonate minerals. Morris explains that the mineral most likely formed as carbonate-rich water interacted with the rocks.

“It looks like Mars had a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, so there was some kind of greenhouse effect,” he said. “The atmosphere now is very thin—it could have blown into space or it could have interacted with water and is now present in the rocks.” Morris also noted that although some carbonate minerals have been found on Mars before, this was a “significant jump.” Further, the “neutral” chemistry of the rocks is a positive sign for how habitable Mars once may have been.

Although all scientific evidence is subject to interpretation, research on Mars continues to suggest that the planet was once watery—a conclusion that is not incompatible with the biblical worldview. That a watery, habitable Mars (if that was truly the case) bore life is an evolutionary leap of logic, however.

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