15th March (UPI) – A new analysis from data collected two decades ago indicates that NASA's Pathfinder mission in 1997 visited the edges of an ancient Martian sea.
NASA's Pathfinder mission, NASA's first Mars rover mission, was conducted Inspired by photographs of the agency's Mariner 9 spacecraft. The probe images revealed extensive canals that had struck scientists about 3.4 billion years ago by massive floods.
NASA sent Pathfinder for investigation. In 1997, Pathfinder reached the Red Planet. He set up a base station, eventually named the Carl Sagan Memorial Station, and sent out a small rover called Sojourner to explore the landscape.
Sojourner identified a number of fluvial traits that had persistent flooding in ancient times. However, the rover's data indicated that the floods in antiquity were much flatter than scientists suspected. Therefore, Pathfinder mission scientists could not rule out the possibility that debris or lava flows affected the red planet's canals.
So far, scientists have mistakenly blamed hydraulic mechanisms for sediment patterns generated by terrestrial sources. The evidence that water once flowed freely on Mars is considerable.
For the latest study, researchers from the Planetary Science Institute re-examined the evidence.
"Our article shows a California-style basin that separates most of the giant Martian channels from the Pathfinder landing pad," Alexis Rodriguez, senior scientist at PSI, said in a press release. "Debris or lava flows would have filled the basin before they reached the Pathfinder landing site, and the existence of the basin requires catastrophic floods as the channel's primary channeling mechanism."
Scientists claim that large floods on Mars created an inland sea. The evidence for this inland sea can be found in the observations of Sojourner. The data from the rover suggest that Pathfinder had landed on an overflow of the seas, which formed a land barrier between the sea and the inland sea.
"Our simulation shows that the ocean has dampened catastrophic floods, resulting in shallow floods that reached the Pathfinder Landing, and produced the ground forms detected by the spacecraft," said Rodriguez.
Marine spillover deposits best explain the sediment structures observed by Sojourner, but not lava or debris.
In addition to the clarity of the discoveries made during NASA's first Mars rover mission, the latest research published this week in the Scientific Reports journal could guide future Mars missions.
"Unlike on Earth, this sea has probably been fed groundwater," said Rodriguez. "If the ancient spring aquifers harbored life, the proposed marine sediment materials at Pathfinder Landing could contain a record of this life, a place easily accessible for future missions."