According to data collected by China, Mars was home to an ocean billions of years ago

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According to data collected by China, Mars was home to an ocean billions of years ago

The discoveries continue on Mars. Lately the CNSA or China National Space Administration published new data collected by Mars orbiter Tianwen 1 and the Zhurong rover which is currently on the surface of the Red Planet. Some of these data support the hypothesis that an ancient ocean is said to have once existed in Utopia Planitiathe great plain that Zhurong is currently exploring.

Tianwen 1 and Zhurong were launched on July 23, 2020. They reached Mars on February 10, 2021. The rover and lander touched down on the surface of Mars 3 months later on May 14.

Zhurong and his lander
CNSA/PEC credits

So far, the orbiter has spent 800 days in Mars orbit, and the rover has traveled 1,921 m. These two devices have already been able to transmit 1,480 GB of raw data to Earth.

Clues present in the data

In the data transmitted by Chinese exploration devices, scientists have discovered the existence of hydrated minerals in the “duricrust”. The duricrust is a hard layer of minerals that sits on the ground, and is usually formed by the evaporation of groundwater.

According to the scientists, this discovery proves that there was a “substantial liquid water activity” in the region at some time during the past billion years. They also determined that “the Martian soil has high resistance and low friction parameters”. This suggests erosion due to wind, water, or both.

The hypothesis that an ocean of liquid water existed on Mars is not entirely new. Recent climate simulations have indeed shown the existence of such an ocean. Scientists have also discovered the presence of a huge deposit of underground ice under the Utopia Planitia region, long before the arrival of the Zhurong rover.

Exploration continues

After this discovery, Tianwen 1 and Zhurong will continue to explore the planet Mars looking for other water-related clues. In addition to this, both devices will also have other tasks to perform.

According to the CNSA, its scientists study “the relationship between the density of rocks on the Martian surface and the degree of surface erosion, the distribution of ions and neutral particles in the near-Mars space environment, and the Mars gravity field”.


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