Red Planet Blues

Everyone into the pool!…on MARS?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not at all far away, Mars was super wet. How wet? About twenty-percent covered in liquid! But now our Red Planet is dry and dusty. Where did the water go?

Enter Ann Vandaele at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy. Her team built the probe NOMAD to circle Mars and inventory Martian atmospheric gases.

By luck, NOMAD arrived in just before a global dust storm. These events are rare and unpredictable – they happen only about every six Earth years. What did NOMAD find?

BEFORE the storm, water vapor was close to the planet’s surface in the form of ice clouds. But the storm threw water high into the atmosphere, where it can be blasted out into space!

Vandaele thinks this could reveal how quickly water disappeared from Mars! And better models of water loss could offer insight into just how long ancient Mars was wet enough to support life.

Or maybe Martians were just more into sunbathing!