Journal Science

New Study Challenges Long-Held Theory of Fate of Mars’ Water

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Grey Hautaluoma / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov / alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

This global view of Mars is composed of about 100 Viking Orbiter images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS

The new science results indicate that a large quantity of the Red Planet’s water is trapped in its crust rather than having escaped into space.

Billions of years ago, according to geological evidence, abundant water flowed across Mars and collected into pools, lakes, and deep oceans. New NASA-funded research shows a substantial quantity of its water – between 30 and 99% – is trapped within minerals in the planet’s crust, challenging the current theory that due to the Red Planet’s low gravity, its water escaped into space.

Early Mars was thought to have enough water to have covered the whole planet in an ocean roughly 100 to 1,500 meters (330 to 4,920 feet) deep – a volume roughly equivalent to half of Earth’s Atlantic Ocean. While some of this water undeniably disappeared from Mars via atmospheric escape, the new findings, published in the latest issue of Science, conclude it does not account for most of its water loss.

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