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Home / Science / A NASA spacecraft may have explored the edges of an early Mars sea in 1997

A NASA spacecraft may have explored the edges of an early Mars sea in 1997



Left: view of the Sojourner rover from the Pathfinder lander. According to our newspaper, a large proportion of the rocks could have been eroded from the edge of the sea by floods. Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On the right: about 3.4 billion years ago, Mars suffered enormous catastrophic floods. This panel shows a paleogeographic reconstruction of the circum-Chryse region, which at that time included the inland sea produced by the floods and part of the ocean of the northern plains. The Pathfinder landing site (symbol of the viewfinder) is located on a huge spillway that connected the inland sea and the northern ocean. The base map is a digital elevation model MOLA (460 m / pixel) centered at 5 ° 31 & # 39; 17 "N, 30 ° 51 & # 39; 24" W. Credit: MOLA Science Team, MSS, JPL, NASA

NASA's first rover mission to Mars, Pathfinder, envisioned an extraterrestrial marine spillover landscape 22 years ago, according to a new document from the Senior Scientist Research Institute of Planetary Science Institute Alexis Rodriguez.

The landing site is located on the discharge channel of an ancient sea that has suffered catastrophic floods released from the subsoil of the planet and its sediments. This could potentially provide evidence of Martian habitability, said Rodriguez, lead author of "The Mars Pathfinder space explorers landing site in 1997: Spreading deposits from an early inland Aegean Sea", which appears in Nature Scientific Reports .

Almost half a century ago the Mariner 9 probe returned images of some of the largest channels in the Solar System. The orbital observations of the gigantic canals suggested that they were formed about 3.4 billion years ago by cataclysmic floods, much larger than those that occurred on Earth. The prospect that abundant water flowed, once the Martian landscape was carved, sparked renewed interest in the possibility that life once prospered on the planet.

To test the hypothesis of the Martian mega-flood, NASA deployed its first Martian rover; the Sojourner, aboard the 1997 Mars Pathfinder space probe that traveled to the red planet. NASA spent a total of $ 280 million on the mission, including launch and mission operations. The soil within the rover's visual range includes potential river features that suggest an extended regional flood. However, these features suggest floods that were at least 10 times deeper than those estimated using images obtained from the orbit. Therefore, the mission was not able to exclude the still controversial alternative opinions by claiming that debris or lava flows could in fact dominate the history of the formation of canals without significant water discharges.

"Our article shows a basin, with roughly the surface of California, which separates most of the giant Martian canals from the Pathfinder landing site: debris or lava flows would have filled the basin before reaching the landing site of Pathfinder, the existence of the basin requires cataclysmic flooding as the primary formation mechanism of the canals, "said Rodriguez.

"The basin is covered by sedimentary deposits with a distribution that corresponds exactly to the flood of the flood from potential catastrophic floods, which would have formed an inland sea," said Rodriguez. "This sea is located about 250 kilometers upstream from the Pathfinder landing point, an observation that takes up its paleogeographic landscape as part of a marine discharge, which forms a land barrier that separates the inland sea and an ocean northern

"Our simulation shows that the presence of the sea would have attenuated cataclysmic floods, leading to superficial relapses that reached the Pathfinder landing site and produced the bed shapes detected by the probe," said Rodriguez. [19659005] The team's results indicate that marine spillover deposits contributed to the landscape that the space probe detected almost 22 years ago and reconciles the in situ geological observations and decades of surveys on remote sensing exit channels.

has a strange resemblance to the Aral Sea on Earth as in both cases there are no distinct coastal terraces: its rapid regression to low submerged slopes has led to retreating tread patterns too f ast to form terraces. The same process could partly explain the long-overdue lack of the coasts of the northern plains.

"Our numerical simulations indicate that the sea quickly covered with ice and disappeared within a few thousand years due to its rapid evaporation and sublimation, but in this period it remained liquid under its ice cover" said PSI Senior Scientist Bryan Travis, a co-author in the newspaper.

"Unlike the Earth, this sea was probably fed by aquifers: if the ancient aquifers harbored life, the marine sedimentary materials proposed on the Pathfinder landing site could contain a recording of that life, an easily accessible position from future missions "Rodriguez said.

"An interesting observation is that the inland sea and the ocean of the northern plains previously proposed share a maximum elevation of paleo-littoral, implying a connection below the surface, perhaps through pipelines, between the two marine bodies immediately after their formation, a new powerful observation that strongly favors the hypothesis of the northern ocean, "said Dan Berman, senior scientist of the PSI, a co-author of the newspaper.


Explore further:
Regional, non-global processes have led to huge Martian floods

Further information:
J. A. P. Rodriguez et al. The 1997 Mars Pathfinder spacecraft landing site: Spillover deposits from a first Mars internal Marque, Scientific reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-39632-1

Journal reference:
Scientific reports

Provided by:
Planetary Science Institute


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