Decades after NASA sent the world’s first mission, rovers and orbiters studying Mars have been tasked with answering constant questions about the red planet.
Why it’s important: A new spacecraft recently sent to Mars will help NASA and other space agencies fill the space of knowledge, moving them closer to finding out if the world was once a host for life.
- But answering questions about Mars’ past and the possibility of its life would probably take more spacecraft, and possibly solve human objectives as well.
Driving News: A study published this month suggests that most of Mars’ water may have been absorbed into Earth, not lost in space, as scientists have thought for decades.
- Thanks to this new study, scientists have been able to begin to square the Earth’s geology with how it lost its atmosphere, giving us a clearer picture of why the world is deserted today.
Yes, but: Not all questions about Mars can be answered quickly with current data.
- Perhaps the most perplexing question has stood for centuries: Has life ever existed? Red planet?
- NASA has been scratching the surface of the answer to that question, using its entire rover, which took it to Mars in February – the first mission dedicated to hunting for past Mars life.
- However, the rover will probably not find signs of life on its own. Incredibility is expected to cache samples to return to Earth on future missions that will allow scientists to use high-powered tools to analyze the samples.
Big questions: Although scientists know that Mars was once habitable – at least for microbial life – it is not yet clear whether the environment will be able to support the diversity and abundance of life we have seen on Earth.
- While the planet had lakes and rivers, researchers do not know exactly how hot the earth was.
- “There are a lot of basics we still don’t know, like how hot or how wet was ancient Mars? Was it a cold, icy deserted world or was it a hot, wet … hot desert planet?” Brianny Horgan, a planetary scientist at Purdue University, told me.
Rovers on the planet It has also been discovered that the world is scattered by stratified rocks, but no one is sure how they formed.
- Scientists’ best guess at the moment is that these layers are formed by erosion, wind, water and ice. Horg added, but we don’t see rock layers like this on Earth because those plates were destroyed by tectonics, which don’t exist on Mars, Horg added.
Conspiracy: Sending rovers and landers to Mars has really complicated scientists’ understanding of the Red Planet.
- “When you have only one data point, it’s easy to create a model that fits that one data point, but when you have 50 data points, it’s more difficult to find the right model to fit that data,” said NASA’s Mars researcher. Abigail Frameman told me.
What’s next: Human expeditions to the Red Planet could one day help dig this match between data from spacecraft into orbit and rover-collected data from the ground.
- Experts say that with people on Mars, scientists can easily find interesting rocks in other parts of the planet without planning and guessing under the guidance of scientists.