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NASA reveals clues to Mars' watery past


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NASA reveals clues to Mars' watery past

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Scientists at NASA have revealed what they believe stripped Mars of water, turning it into the arid Red Planet.

“What happened to the Mars atmosphere? I’ll quote Bob Dylan – ‘The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind’,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist at the Mars Exploration Program, said in Washington DC on Thursday.

The findings suggest a solar storm blasted away Mars’ atmosphere around three and a half billion years ago. Unlike Earth, Mars did not have a global magnetic field to protect its atmosphere.

NASA’s Mars-orbiting MAVEN spacecraft caught such a storm stripping away the planet’s atmosphere, scientists said.

“Up until about 3.7 billion years ago, water seemed to be very abundant and active. So the stripping of the solar wind, the stripping by the solar wind, of the atmosphere, would have occurred in that same time-frame,” said MAVEN lead researcher Bruce Jakosky.

“Mars appears to meet all of the conditions required for life or to have met them at the surface in the past. And that begs the question of whether was ever any life there, and if there was, whether it was genetically related to terrestrial life or would represent an independent origin.

“So as we go into the future, I think these questions about life and climate and the history of the planet as a whole are really at the centre of the exploration,” Jakosky continued.

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