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


This global view of Mars is composed of about 100 Viking Orbiter images.
Global View of Mars From Viking Orbiter: This global view of Mars is composed of about 100 Viking Orbiter images. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS. Download image ›

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.

The results were presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) by lead author and Caltech Ph.D. candidate Eva Scheller along with co-authors Bethany Ehlmann, professor of planetary science at Caltech and associate director for the Keck Institute for Space Studies; Yuk Yung, professor of planetary science at Caltech and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Danica Adams, Caltech graduate student; and Renyu Hu, JPL research scientist.

“Atmospheric escape doesn’t fully explain the data that we have for how much water actually once existed on Mars,” said Scheller.

Using a wealth of cross-mission data archived in NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS), the research team integrated data from multiple NASA Mars Exploration Program missions and meteorite lab work. Specifically, the team studied the quantity of water on the Red Planet over time in all its forms (vapor, liquid, and ice) and the chemical composition of the planet’s current atmosphere and crust, looking in particular at the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen (D/H).

While water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, not all hydrogen atoms are created equal. The vast majority of hydrogen atoms have just one proton within the atomic nucleus, while a tiny fraction (about 0.02%) exists as deuterium, or so-called “heavy” hydrogen, which has a proton and a neutron. The lighter-weight hydrogen escapes the planet’s gravity into space much easier than its denser counterpart. Because of this, the loss of a planet’s water via the upper atmosphere would leave a revealing sign on the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in the planet’s atmosphere: There would be a very large amount of deuterium left behind.

However, the loss of water solely through the atmosphere cannot explain both the observed deuterium-to-hydrogen signal in the Martian atmosphere and large amounts of water in the past. Instead, the study proposes that a combination of two mechanisms – the trapping of water in minerals in the planet’s crust and the loss of water to the atmosphere – can explain the observed deuterium-to-hydrogen signal within the Martian atmosphere.

When water interacts with rock, chemical weathering forms clays and other hydrous minerals that contain water as part of their mineral structure. This process occurs on Earth as well as on Mars. On Earth, old crust continually melts into the mantle and forms new crust at plate boundaries, recycling water and other molecules back into the atmosphere through volcanism. Mars, however, has no tectonic plates, and so the “drying” of the surface, once it occurs, is permanent.

“The hydrated materials on our own planet are being continually recycled through plate tectonics,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Because we have measurements from multiple spacecraft, we can see that Mars doesn’t recycle, and so water is now locked up in the crust or been lost to space.”

A key objective of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Scheller and Ehlmann will aid in operations by the Perseverance rover to collect these samples that will be returned to Earth through the Mars Sample Return program, which will allow the highly-anticipated further examination of these hypotheses about the drivers of Mars climate change. Understanding the evolution of the Martian environment is important context for understanding results from analyses of the returned samples as well as understanding how habitability changes over time on rocky planets.

The research and findings outlined in the paper highlight the significant contributions of early career scientists in expanding our understanding of the solar system. Similarly, the research, which relied on data from meteorites, telescopes, satellite observations, and samples analyzed by rovers on Mars, illustrates the importance of having multiple ways of probing the Red Planet.

This work was supported by a NASA Habitable Worlds award, a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) award, and a NASA Future Investigator in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) award.


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Lewis Buckingham
March 20, 2021 2:17 am

If tectonics are incapable of recycling water on this planer ‘terra forming’ will be impossible.

Reply to  Lewis Buckingham
March 20, 2021 2:40 am

 On Earth, old crust continually melts into the mantle and forms new crust at plate boundaries, recycling water and other molecules back into the atmosphere through volcanism.”
One new example from late last night springs into action
Icelandic volcano erupts near ReykjavikA volcano has erupted south-west of Iceland’s capital Reykjavik, the country’s meteorological office says.
However, the eruption of is not expected to spew out much ash or smoke, so aviation should not suffer disruption.
The Icelandic Meteorological Office says the eruption began at about 20:45 GMT on Friday, and was later confirmed via webcams and satellite images.

Eric Vieira
Reply to  Lewis Buckingham
March 20, 2021 4:05 am

Maybe set off a “few” H-Bombs in Mars’ iron core to melt it. Then the planet would have a magnetic field again, and maybe some water would be set free …
The main problem would be drilling the hole to the core… pure science-fiction …
Sorry: the core may be already melted: see,should%20stay%20in%20liquid%20form. There is hope…

Last edited 22 days ago by Eric Vieira
Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 20, 2021 4:33 am

You need 2 Megajoules to melt 1 tone of iron, for 1 m3 iron = 16MJ, 1 Hiroshima = 1 billion MJ = 62000 m3 iron, which is block of iron of 40m x 40m x 40 m, i.e. you would need 64,000 Hiroshimas to melt one mile cubic of iron (needs a double check)
Not much return for a lot of trouble.

John Tillman
Reply to  Vuk
March 20, 2021 9:06 am

Even using 100 MT H-bombs, you’d need a lot to melt the core.

Reply to  Vuk
March 20, 2021 9:39 am

Would the radiation created from all of those explosions be enough to make a difference?

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2021 10:22 am

Since Mars’ core is probably still liquid, the ambitious exercise would most likely not be necessary. However, assuming it were possible to dig through the crust and mantle to the core, enough hihg yeild, multistage thermonuclear devices could theoretically deliver enough high temperature energy to heat the core. Prompt radiation consists of high speed neutrons, gamma and x-rays.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 20, 2021 12:45 pm

“…. assuming it were possible to dig through the crust and mantle to the core….”
Some years back AFAIR(emember) Russians tried to drill deepest hole in the world. They drilled about 12 or 15 km deep and decided to have a winter break or something. When engineers returned the drills left in the hole were locked solid by pressure from surrounding rocks, that they sheared when engines applied enough torque. I doubt that anyone would be able to drill down more than say 20 miles deep.

Last edited 21 days ago by Vuk
John Tillman
Reply to  Vuk
March 20, 2021 2:01 pm

Yup. The Mohole Men.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Vuk
March 20, 2021 9:42 pm

1 kiloton = 4.184E12 joules. Your figure of 2 MJ per tonne heat of fusion for iron is off by two orders of magnitude. It’s actually ~250 MJ per tonne. Nevertheless, a 1 kt bomb could melt 16,736 tonnes of iron. An American B-83 has a yield of 1.2 megatons, so could melt 20E6 tonnes of iron. The Soviet Tsar Bomba, with a yield of 50 megatons, could melt ~837E6 tonnes. That’s a cube of iron 47.4 meters on a side. So ultimately, you are correct.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
March 21, 2021 5:52 am

Thanks, re: 2MJ I probably miscounted zeros when wrote the comment,

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
March 21, 2021 4:44 pm

Tsar Bomba was intentionally downrated. A full three stage, fission-fusion-fission–fusion-fission device would yield on the order of 100 MT, but still obviously would need many. However, unecessary, if seismic data be correct.

Reply to  Vuk
March 22, 2021 2:31 am

Come on there is an obvious way to increase the temperature of Mars take a pile of fossil fuels there and burn it 🙂

John Tillman
Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 20, 2021 9:21 am

Hot off the press! From St. Paddy’s Day just past:,dense%20than%20had%20been%20predicted.&text=The%20core%20is%20probably%20still,some%204.5%20billion%20years%20ago.

“Scientists have peered into the heart of Mars for the first time. NASA’s InSight spacecraft, sitting on the Martian surface with the aim of seeing deep inside the planet, has revealed the size of Mars’s core by listening to seismic energy ringing through the planet’s interior.

“The measurement suggests that the radius of the Martian core is 1,810 to 1,860 kilometres, roughly half that of Earth’s. That’s larger than some previous estimates, meaning the core is less dense than had been predicted. The finding suggests the core must contain lighter elements, such as oxygen, in addition to the iron and sulfur that constitute much of its make-up. InSight scientists reported their measurements in several presentations this week at the virtual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, based out of Houston, Texas.

“Rocky planets such as Earth and Mars are divided into the fundamental layers of crust, mantle and core. Knowing the size of each of those layers is crucial to understanding how the planet formed and evolved. InSight’s measurements will help scientists to determine how Mars’s dense, metal-rich core separated from the overlying rocky mantle as the planet cooled. The core is probably still molten from Mars’s fiery birth, some 4.5 billion years ago.”

Hence, Mars probably lacks a megnetic field because of its mantle rather than from a crystallized core.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 20, 2021 2:48 pm

It’s always distasteful when one word is used, without clear context establishing what is discussed. In this case “core”.

As an example from natgeo:

“The Earth’s interior is composed of four layers, three solid and one liquid—not magma but molten metal, nearly as hot as the surface of the sun.

The deepest layer is a solid iron ball, about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) in diameter. Although this inner core is white hot, the pressure is so high the iron cannot melt.

The iron isn’t pure—scientists believe it contains sulfur and nickel, plus smaller amounts of other elements. Estimates of its temperature vary, but it is probably somewhere between 9,000 and 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,000 and 7,000 degrees Celsius).

Above the inner core is the outer core, a shell of liquid iron. This layer is cooler but still very hot, perhaps 7,200 to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit (4,000 to 5,000 degrees Celsius). It too is composed mostly of iron, plus substantial amounts of sulfur and nickel. It creates the Earth’s magnetic field and is about 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) thick.”

At half the size of Earth, Mars is unable to generate the pressure necessary to prevent iron from melting. Scratch Mars having a pressurized crystalline iron core.
Leaving the question whether Mar’s core is solid or molten iron.

Then there is the issue of a surface meandering robot being capable of identifying Mar’s core and other planetary layers.
Is a surface robot really capable of identifying a core, or is there a model running the sparse signals received from Mars?

On Earth there are many insulated isolated Earth implanted sensors capturing seismic waves that allow interpreting results into core and layers.

Combined, Earth’s crystalline iron core and outer molten iron core come to approximately 7,000km diameter (4,300 miles).
Which is about 3.76 times the alleged Mar’s core.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 20, 2021 5:13 pm

Back when Scientific American actually published science articles, there was one about Mars having a single tectonic plate. (I noticed your link said the same thing.)

The author described a region at the equator of Mars that resembled what a polar ice cap would look like if the ice was gone. It was roughly round in shape and the author described that the area looked like it had gone through repeated freezings and thawings–as would happen at the pole. Also there was a similar looking region on the equator exactly oposite of the one he was describing. It’s as if the single Martian plate had suddenly rotated 90 degrees.

I haven’t heard anything about this since. I guess it turned out to be incorrect.


John Tillman
Reply to  Jim Masterson
March 20, 2021 5:27 pm

For much of Mars, speculation still reigns supreme. More surface probes and orbiters are indicated.

My impression is however, that Mars never developed plate tectonics.

Reply to  Eric Vieira
March 21, 2021 8:06 am

You mean like the Putin Plan?

March 20, 2021 2:27 am

Dear WUWT team. Lately, my browser frequently displays your page as some sort of simplified text document. I have to close the window, reclick on the mailed link, and voila, nine out of ten I get the proper response. I have not noticed this on any other sites.
Using Firefox, updated this week. Just in case things are wonky on your side, a heads up?
Gotta get my daily wattsup on, you know…

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 20, 2021 2:43 am

I have no trouble using Firefox on linux

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 20, 2021 2:45 am

Paranoid, no need to get paranoid, sounds as a minor irritant.

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 20, 2021 7:48 am

I too get that occasionally. On other sites also. Firefox won’t open yahoo mail either. Folks @ Firefox have been no help.

Gunga Din
Reply to  paranoid goy
March 20, 2021 9:32 am

On another recently replaced PC at work using Chrome or Edge, I only get text with hyperlinks. Clicking on a hyperlink only returns more of the same.
At home, no problems.

PS I only check in during breaks and lunch. No time to explore via “Inspect”.

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 20, 2021 2:10 pm

No problem here, on similar software

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 21, 2021 11:49 am

I get that every time I try to open WUWT in the Brave browser (reported problem to Brave). For me WUWT works fine in Firefox so I keep a Firefox window open and dedicated to WUWT.

Joel O’Bryan
March 20, 2021 2:52 am

Mars’s 1/2 an Atlantic Ocean’s worth of water 4 billion years ago is less than 5% of the water Earth has today.Without a magnetodynamo-generated magnetic shield and no tectonics, Mars was doomed to become dry and cold. The abundant perchlorate that coats all Mars surface rocks and dust are also the UV dissociated remnants of its salt water.

Ron Long
March 20, 2021 3:08 am

Remember it’s only oceanic crust that gets pushed down subduction zones, the continental plates get shoved around but do not subduct. So the water “recycled by melting and volcanism” is only that water that survives the journey down into the melting zone in the subducting oceanic plate. When you examine the obducted oceanic plates, like the Klamath Terrane of California and Oregon, you do not see much sign of water, excepting the serpentization of ultramafics, which appears to be due to exposure to atmospheric processes. It does appear that Mars had more water in the past, and it will be interesting to see if some of it is fixed during supergene processes like here on Earth. If so, this water will not readily be extracted from the hydrous minerals and I recommend the Mars Astronauts take a variety of liquid refreshments with them.

Peta of Newark
March 20, 2021 4:00 am

ha ha ha
Quote:””The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate”
Cancel the haha if they are NOT saying that rocks (dirt)has an effect on climate

Am struggling, by a missing word; viz clay

That has surely got to be what they’re talking about and thus we’re in a (Martian) landscape comprising, to greater extent Aluminium Silicate Hexahydrate. = Mica with added water

The water adds itself over the course of centuries, you could build a clock with it if you liked. It would run for about 500 years before you need to ‘rewind’ it or change its battery.

And you would do that by heating it.
Exactly what happens in a kiln, classically a brick-making kiln.
In the kiln, the ‘hexahydrate’ is driven out of soft, water filled, clay to leave solid bricks.
Over the course of 500 years it creeps back in and your bricks will go soft & crumble.

The fire-storms in London during ‘The Blitz’ actually reset the clocks in the bricks in some places. It got hot. As it happens, London is still there so I guess Climate Change isn’t much to fear 😀

Volcanoes do the same = chase the water out of the hexahydrate.
Thus, lacking volcanoes, brick kilns and blitzes, Martian clay would absorb more & more water and (I ain’t clear on this myself) eventually turn to something akin to Silica Gel mush.

I don’t think that describes Mars?
Seems to be a dry & dusty place – looks like The Water isn’t there?

Otherwise we’re venturing into the chemistry of Calcium and Silicon, i.e. Cement
Again, where Mars failed, is that volcanoes drive CO2 out of ‘rock’, producing the stuff we all know & love. Carbon Dioxide.

Cement chemistry is all over the place but has all the ingredients of clay chemistry, with the slight exception of Iron and Sulphur getting involved.
Like clay though, lots of water is involved

Both Fe and S destroy cement, mortar and/or concrete wherever and however if formed.
Also alkali metals such Natrium and also ‘Pot Ashes’, sometimes Kalium ain’t healthy for concrete.

On Mars though, we know there is lots of Iron (it is called The Red Planet after all) as we see even here on Earth

Over to you to suss where any water involved there might be now..

We know, some of us anyway, that Comets (dirty snowballs) is where much of the water is now

PS: a little anecdote
A truly fantastic place to see concrete weathering in action is on the footbridge over the M6 motorway at Southwaite Services in Cumbria.
The bridge is built of shuttered concrete and has tempered plate-glass sides/walls to protect the users from ‘The Elements’

But they’ve left a (maybe) 2 inch gap between the top of the 3 ft high concrete wall and where the glass starts. You can squeeze your hand through. ish

But the difference in the concrete, inside the glass and outside is quite amazing once you notice it.
The inside is smooth and shiny, slightly chalky, brilliant white and ‘new’
The concrete on the outside, remember it was all cast in one piece, is grey, deeply pitted and gently falling apart.
The cutoff line, the line of the glass panels, is sooooo sharp

I may find an excuse to venture back Oop Norf, see it its still there and get a picture…..

Now then, questions questions always questions, did Natural Variation cause that or, did the traffic on (pollution off) the motorway do it?
(You know exactly what I’m alluding to doncha)

They use grotesque amounts of de-icing salt up there – they lay it on so thick it looks like snow sometimes.

Last edited 22 days ago by Peta of Newark
Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 20, 2021 4:34 am

sigh, how could I forget

An Absolute Triumph of contemporary science & engineering is the widely acclaimed and ever so popular with its users (UK readers will see the sarc) is the so-called Spaghetti Junction.
Where my road (the M6) meets the A38 and my favourite road (the M5) just South West of Brum

Spaghetti Junction was built, in the early 70’s, with High Alumina Cement.
Outrageously popular with its users because it sets so quickly.

The Rot also started quickly, on the drawing board to be precisely factual.
Does that sound familiar?

Barely 20 years later, blamed on de-icing salt, it had to be rebuilt – an epic and quite amazing task (Big Kudos to the boys/girls involved) as they weren’t allowed to close the roads going over it.
Big Expense obviously also.

I think mostly that the salt got into the rebar, basically it exploded in slow-motion
Is Mars a salty place?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 20, 2021 6:26 am

Trying to navigate the M5/M6 junction for the last few years has been ridiculous. Even now they’ve finally opened it all up, there’s still “temporary” 50 speed limits in place – or there were last time I had to use it, when I went to see family back home.

Looks nice though. All black and smooth on top. I’m sure it’ll last almost all the way to the end of the decade…

Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 20, 2021 5:41 am

Here you are:
M6 Southwaite Services Footbridge
Google Street View is your friend.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 20, 2021 7:13 am

Nope! that is not it!

Reply to  twobob
March 21, 2021 11:28 pm

PS: a little anecdote

A truly fantastic place to see concrete weathering in action is on the footbridge over the M6 motorway at Southwaite Services in Cumbria.

Nope! that is not it!


Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 20, 2021 6:57 am

Romans built better buildings, many of them still standing after 2000 years.

Reply to  Vuk
March 20, 2021 2:24 pm

With most highrise buildings being constructed from concreate and steel. And with concreate having a life span from 30 to 100 years. Living in a big city with lots of highrise buildings, the phrase “look up and live” could be the catch phrase for the future. How old was the twin towers, no wonder they came down so easy. Makes you wonder if they were falling down anyway, The concreate floors pancaking was the reason they collapsed. Did you know that the concreate industry contributes about 5 to 8% of CO2 emissions every year.

March 20, 2021 4:20 am

“However, the loss of water solely through the atmosphere cannot explain both the observed deuterium-to-hydrogen signal in the Martian atmosphere and large amounts of water in the past. Instead, the study proposes that a combination of two mechanisms – the trapping of water in minerals in the planet’s crust and the loss of water to the atmosphere – can explain the observed deuterium-to-hydrogen signal within the Martian atmosphere.”

I wonder what will be the answer if we apply the same argument to the Carbon12 / Carbon 13 stable isotope ratio? The observed atmospheric stable carbon atom ratio might not be dependent on just one fractionation mechanism.

March 20, 2021 4:24 am

Apparently there is still surface water there. The Korolev crater is full of water ice. The European Space Agency (ESA) released some fabulous pics last June.
Here is one, and a synthetic video.

william elbel
Reply to  TonyL
March 20, 2021 5:39 am

There is an ice cap on Mars but it does NOT sublimate to water vapor over geologic time, even though the relative humidity is extremely low, because the rate of sublimation is suppressed by a significant dust cover.

So much Martian dust that solar panels have lost power due to dust cover, although sometimes partially cleaned by storms

Search on Mars ice sublimation and dust cover

John Tillman
Reply to  william elbel
March 20, 2021 9:12 am

Mars’ permanent polar water ice caps are also seasonally or perennially covered by dry ice. Frozen carbon dioxide accumulates as a comparatively thin layer about one meter thick on the north cap in the northern winter, while the south cap has a permanent dry ice cover about eight meters thick.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 21, 2021 2:44 pm

John , How often does either pole reach the freezing point of CO2 -78C to form dry ice.

John Tillman
Reply to  jmorpuss
March 21, 2021 4:46 pm

Always at the South Pole and every winter at the North Pole. Mars is tilted, like Earth.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 21, 2021 5:29 pm

John, The south pole is on average the coldest of the 2 poles at -60C in winter, to hot to freeze CO2.
Which pole is colder? | NASA Climate Kids

Reply to  jmorpuss
March 21, 2021 5:33 pm

sorry John I’m talking about Earth not Mars.

william elbel
March 20, 2021 5:06 am

Maxwell-Boltzmann, well before the 1960s, predicted that nearly all Martian surface water and water vapor escapes into space in less than 10,000,000 earth years, since the Martian velocity distribution of water vapor molecules overlaps the escape velocity for Mars which is much lower than Earth because of the much smaller than Earth planetary radius.

This escape into space of water vapor is further assisted by the “solar wind.”

The gigantic water flow mentioned would be restricted to those 10,000,000 earth years.

There is an ice cap on Mars but it does NOT sublimate to water vapor over geologic time because the rate of sublimation is suppressed by a significant dust cover

March 20, 2021 5:22 am

The puzzle is not how the water got into the rock but, in a planet completely covered by 100 to 1500m deep ocean, how that heavy rock all floated to the surface.

Reply to  Roger
March 20, 2021 8:20 am

Splitsville: 2-Mile-Long Crack Opens in Arizona Desert
By Jeanna Bryner January 27, 2017

Water withdrawal, primarily for agriculture, is the culprit, Cook said. As groundwater is pulled up, it leaves a void and the land above it subsides, leading to cracks. Arizona is full of these cracks, Cook said. “We see earth fissures forming around the margins of these subsidence areas and along mountain fronts within the subsidence areas,” Cook said.

Last edited 22 days ago by OK S.
Reply to  Roger
March 20, 2021 9:51 am

Nobody said the entire planet was covered, they said that there was enough water to cover it.
This assumes the planet is perfectly smooth. Mars, like the Earth has high places and low places, and the water will naturally accumulate in the low places.

Bro. Steve
March 20, 2021 5:25 am

How deep has any space gadget dug into Martian soil? Couple of inches? Based on that wealth of data (plus lots of photos of dust and rocks), we conclude there were oceans of water, and we kinda figure we know where it went.

You can’t see them right now, but I’m squinting with my skeptical eyes. A future headline about this subject will definitely include words like, “it was different than we thought.”

John Tillman
Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 20, 2021 9:24 am

NASA’s InSight lander has probed Mars’ interior using seismic waves.

Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 20, 2021 9:54 am

We know there were oceans of water on Mars based on the evidence of erosion that could only be caused by water. Mars rovers have also found types of rocks that could only be formed in water.

March 20, 2021 9:18 am

If Mars once had lots of surface water, it has lots of sedentary rocks, some buried at great depths, just like earth. The pore space of this rock may be filled with liquid water. Missing water may be in composition of minerals but also in pores.

John Tillman
Reply to  RelPerm
March 20, 2021 9:41 am

Mars is a basaltic planet, however:

Mineralogy and geochemistry of sedimentary rocks and eolian sediments in Gale crater, Mars: A review after six Earth years of exploration with Curiosity

Most detrital igneous minerals are basaltic, but the discovery in a few samples of abundant silicate minerals that usually crystallize from evolved magmas on Earth remains enigmatic. Trioctahedral smectite and magnetite at the base of the section may have formed from low-salinity pore waters with a circumneutral pH in lake sediments. 

Last edited 22 days ago by John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 20, 2021 1:50 pm

Thanks John. Wouldn’t all the detritals on Mars have porosity on deposition? And water would fill pore space on deposition unless aeolian? The layers and layers of sedimentary rock building up over time would still have that water in the pore space, just like happens on earth? The water in the rock pore space may remain even if the surface water disappeared into space. This may occur especially if the rock gets isolated from the surface as often happens on earth (isolated with clay or evaporites).

Maybe a wild thought, but maybe astro-geologists should consider liquid water table levels in some of those Martian rock layers.

John Tillman
Reply to  RelPerm
March 20, 2021 2:03 pm

There apparently are pores in the sediments laid down in water for about a billion years. Dunno about the aeolian sediments from wind erosion.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 20, 2021 10:52 pm

I’m sure the dunes have porosity filled with Martian air (CO2) at deposition. If the dunes were subsequently submerged in Martian water, the pore space would fill quickly with water. Aeolian deposits make great aquifers and oil/gas reservoirs on earth.

John Tillman
Reply to  RelPerm
March 21, 2021 4:48 pm

True. They do. But the aeolian deposits on Mars atop the water-deposited sedimentary layers lack aquifers. However, under the Martian regolith lie water ice deposits.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  RelPerm
March 21, 2021 4:52 am

Sedimentary, please. Geoff S

Tom Abbott
March 20, 2021 11:29 am

From the article: “The hydrated materials on our own planet are being continually recycled through plate tectonics,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Because we have measurements from multiple spacecraft, we can see that Mars doesn’t recycle, and so water is now locked up in the crust or been lost to space.”

This is the kind of science I like.

Does this mean that Earth-sized planets are the lower limit for planets capable of supporting intelligent civilizations?

Mars may have had enough time to have primitive life develop on it, but then everything dried up and progress to higher forms of life stopped.

Last edited 21 days ago by Tom Abbott
John Tillman
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 20, 2021 12:11 pm

Even an Earth-sized planet isn’t a guarantee of multicellular life. But for the apparently one-off origin of eukaryotes, the endosymbiosis of an archaeon and a bacterium, Earth wouldn’t have complex unicells (protists), plants, fungi or animals, either.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 21, 2021 9:16 am

Maybe such a momentous fusion of domains was bound to happen sooner or later, but it’s also possible that the odds were against it. They’re made longer by proto-eukaryotes’ first needing to evolve a nucleus, which important development appears to have been facilitated by a megavirus, making our cells even more chimeric.

In any case, the endosymbiosis was arguably the most significant event in the history of life on Earth since the first replication of a nucleic acid molecule. Engulfing a bacterium offered selective advantage in the poisonous new environment of the post-Oxygen Catastrophe world.

Some prokaryote colonies are considered multicellular by certain biologists, but not to the extent of plants, fungi and animals.

Last edited 21 days ago by John Tillman
March 20, 2021 1:25 pm

Looks like another meteorite strikes and disintegrates in atmosphere over SW England

March 20, 2021 2:37 pm

My SWAG argues that UV light from the Sun was able to split the H2O molecules into H and O elements. The H atoms rose to the top of the atmosphere where they got blown away by the solar wind. The O atoms sunk, where they reacted with the Fe, making the rusty surface, and C atoms, making the Carbon Dioxide remaining in the atmosphere and the dry ice in the polar regions and shaded parts of craters.
The only water left on Mars is the water that was always ground water and never subject to UV light.

Last edited 21 days ago by DonK31
March 21, 2021 8:18 am

Looking for life in a boulder field is a waste of time. They should have looked for the one hydrothermal vent on the planet. And if they did not find a single one that should have told them something.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
March 21, 2021 8:22 am

I think they will drive around and fly around and find exactly nothing but try to make the best of it with color photos and a sample bag.

March 21, 2021 8:26 am

NASA should have included some experienced exploration geologists in the site selection process. As it stands now they are stuck with examining the claims handed to them by the ‘committee’.

Ron Ginzler
March 21, 2021 4:54 pm

The True History of Water on Mars:The draining of the canals mandated by the MEPA (Mars Environmental Protection Agency) to an underground reservoir, on the claim they were causing global warming, despite lawsuits filed by Burroughs, Bradbury, et al, caused the Exodus of Martians to a more friendly planet, Earth, where this could not occur.

Steve Z
March 23, 2021 12:27 pm

At sea level pressure on Earth, the boiling temperature of ordinary water (with two 1H atoms) is 373.15 K, while that of “heavy water” (deuterium oxide, or D2O, with two 2H atoms) is 374.55 K, or less than 0.38% higher in absolute temperature. On earth, only about 0.8% of hydrogen atoms are deuterium, so that one would expect only about 64 ppm of water molecules to be D2O, with about 0.8% of water molecules with one deuterium atom (DHO), with the remainder being ordinary H2O.

With a very slight difference in volatility of D2O compared to H2O, one would not expect a much higher concentration of deuterium atoms over ordinary hydrogen atoms on Mars, due to vaporization and escape of free water.

There are many minerals on Earth which exist as hydrates, where water molecules are bonded into the crystalline structure, so that such minerals could also exist on Mars. However, such hydrates are probably much more abundant on Earth than on Mars, due to a frequent supply of fresh water (rain water seeping into rocks) that can react with the minerals on Earth, while there is no rain on Mars. Any water that dissociated from a mineral hydrate on Mars would likely be quickly vaporized in the thin atmosphere, then lost to space.

If there is water trapped as mineral hydrates on Mars, it is up to the rover to find them.

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