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

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



Left: View of the Sojourner rover from the Pathfinder lander. According to our newspaper, a large part of the rocks may have been eroded by flooding from the edge of the sea. Picture credits: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Right: About 3.4 billion years ago, Mars experienced major flood disasters. This plaque shows a paleogeographic reconstruction of the region around Chryse, which at that time comprised the inland flood-generated sea and part of the ocean of the northern plains. The Pathfinder Landing Site (Crosshair Symbol) is located on a huge overflow connecting the inland sea and the North Ocean. The base map is a digital MOLA elevation model (460 m / pixel) centered at 5 ° 31 & # 17; 17 "N, 30 ° 51 & # 24; 24" W. Credit: MOLA science team, MSS, JPL, NASA

NASA's first rover mission on Mars, the Pathfinder, mapped an extraterrestrial ocean overflow landscape 22 years ago, according to a recent article by senior planetetary science institute scientist Alexis Rodriguez.

The landing site is located at the overflow of an ancient ocean, causing catastrophic flooding by the planet's bottom and its sediments. This could potentially provide evidence of the habitability of Martians, said Rodriguez, lead author of "The Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft Landing Site: Spillover Deposits from an Early Inland Sea of ​​Mars," which appears in Nature Scientific Reports .

Almost half a century ago, the Mariner 9 spacecraft delivered images of some of the largest canals in the solar system. Orbital observations of the gigantic channels indicated that they had been created about 3.4 billion years ago by catastrophic floods that were much larger than any known on Earth. The prospect that abundant running water once formed the Martian landscape rekindled interest in the possibility that life had once flourished on the planet.

To test the Mars mega-flood hypothesis, NASA deployed its first Mars rover. the sojourner aboard the 1997 Mars Pathfinder spacecraft on the red planet. NASA has spent a total of $ 280 million on the mission, including launch vehicle and mission operations. The terrain within the rover's field of vision includes potential river features suggesting regionally-extended floods. However, these features indicate floods at least ten times flatter than those estimated from orbital images. Therefore, the mission was unable to rule out controversial alternative views, according to which debris or lava flows could have dominated the history of canal formation without significant discharges of water.

"Our newspaper shows a basin with approximately the surface of California separating most of the vast Mars channels from Pathfinder Landing, with debris or lava flows filling the basin before reaching the Pathfinder landing site. The presence of the basin requires catastrophic flooding the primary educational mechanism of the channels, "said Rodriguez.

"The basin is covered by sediment deposits with a distribution exactly equivalent to the inferred extent of flooding caused by potential catastrophic floods that would have formed an inland sea," said Rodriguez. "This ocean is located approximately 250 kilometers upstream from the Pathfinder landing pad, an observation that describes its paleo-geographical environment as part of an overflow channel that formed a land barrier separating the inland sea and the northern ocean."

"Our simulation shows that The presence of the sea would have cushioned catastrophic floods, resulting in shallow floods that reached the Pathfinder landing site and produced the ground forms recognized by the spacecraft, "Rodriguez said, discovering the spacecraft almost 22 years ago and reconciling the geological observations of the spacecraft On-site mission and decades-long exploration of the drainage channels via remote sensing.

The sea is eerily similar to the Aral Sea on Earth, as they both lack terraces on the coast, their rapid regression over shallow, submerged slopes the retreat of the coasts line too much had to form for the terraces. The same process could be partly responsible for the long-known lack of coasts of the northern lowlands.

"Our numerical simulations show that the ocean, due to its rapid evaporation and sublimation, quickly became ice-covered and disappeared within a few thousand years, but remained fluid under its ice cover during that time," said PSI senior scientist Bryan Travis. Co-author in the newspaper.

"Unlike on Earth, this sea was probably fed with groundwater, and if the ancient spring aquifers harbored life, the proposed marine sediment materials at Pathfinder could contain a record of that life, a place easily accessible for future missions. " Rodriguez said.

"An exciting observation is that the inland sea and the previously proposed northern lowland have a maximum Paleo-shoreline, implying an underground connection between the two bodies of sea shortly after their formation Strongly favored hypothesis of the northern ocean, "said Dan Berman, senior scientist of the PSI.


Explore further:
Regional, non-global processes led to massive marshland

Further information:
J.A.P. Rodriguez et al. The Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft of 1997: Spillover Deposits from an Early Mars Inland Sea, Scientific Reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-39632-1

Magazine Reference:
Scientific reports

Provided by:
Planetary Science Institute


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