Science

We Asked a NASA Scientist


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

Did Mars ever look like Earth? Yes, we think it did! Ancient Mars may have been wetter and warmer — similar to Earth. What happened? Scientists like NASA’s Dr. Becky McCauley Rench are trying to find out.

When the solar system settled into its current layout over four billion years ago, Mars and Earth formed from the same materials and looked very similar. Both are terrestrial planets, with a central core, a rocky mantle, and a solid crust. Early on, we know that Mars once had lakes, streams, and perhaps even a northern ocean.

The two worlds diverged, and we have two very different planets today. Despite the fact that Mars may once have been warm and wet, it is now a cold, dry place. As the Earth progressed with plate tectonics and the development of life, Mars’ geologic activity subsided, lost water, and it became a much drier planet.

This shared history is part of why it’s so fascinating to study the Red Planet. Our Mars exploration efforts are helping us understand more about Mars’ past and future, as well as understanding Earth and planetary evolution both in our solar system and beyond.

So, did Mars ever look like Earth? Well, yes it did. A very, very long time ago.





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