4 billion years ago, the atmosphere of Mars could have been rich in oxygen and thick enough and warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. A new animation from the Goddard Space Flight Center shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period. The artist’s concept video, below, is based on evidence that Mars was once very different and perhaps very Earth-like.
This past summer, a paper studying the compositions of Martian meteorites found on Earth and data from NASA’s rovers suggested that Mars had an oxygen-rich atmosphere very early in the history of the planet.
Scientists have long thought that the ancient riverbeds and what appear to be shorelines provide hints that Mars once supported oceans of water. But there’s not much indication of how the Red Planet was stripped of its thick atmosphere, roughly 3.7 billion years ago.
The end of the video shows the MAVEN spacecraft, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, orbiting Mars. This spacecraft is scheduled to launch on Nov. 18, 2013, and it will investigate how Mars lost its atmosphere. It should reach the planet in September 2014.
Below is another new video from NASA, featuring LeVar Burton talking about MAVEN.