China Mars mission data offers evidence for ancient ocean

The Zhurong rover and the Tianwen 1 orbiter have been working hard. A report from the state-run news network CGTN says that the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has shared new information from its Tianwen 1 Mars orbiter and Zhurong Mars rover.

A lander and Tianwen 1, Zhurong, were launched on July 23, 2020. They reached Mars orbit on February 10, 2021, along with a lander. The orbiter has been running for almost 800 days. Three months later, on May 14, the rover and the lander reached the surface of Mars. So far, the rover has gone 6,302 feet (1,921 meters).

Now, CGTN reports that the CNSA has said that the orbiter and rover have sent back 1,480 gigabytes of raw data. Some of this data supports the idea that an ancient ocean once existed in the Utopia Planitia, which Zhurong is exploring.

Scientists who looked at the data found hydrated minerals in the “duricrust.” Scientists who looked at the data found hydrated minerals in the “duricrust.” “Duricrust” is a hard mineral layer on top of soil that usually forms when groundwater evaporates. Scientists say that this finding shows that there was “substantial liquid water activity” in the area at some point in the last billion years. They have also found that “the soil on Mars has a high bearing strength and low friction parameters,” which means that it has been worn away by the wind, water, or both.

The idea that Mars once had an ocean of liquid water isn’t new. Recent climate simulations have also shown that such an ocean exists. Scientists found a huge underground ice deposit under the Utopia Planitia many years before Zhurong got there. Both Tianwen 1 and Zhurong will keep looking for signs of water on Mars,

but they will also do other kinds of research. Scientists from the CNSA have been studying, according to CGTN, “the relationship between the density of rocks on Mars’s surface and the amount of surface erosion; the distribution of ions and neutral particles in the near-Mars space environment; and Mars’s gravity field.


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