NASA’s Curiosity Rover Finds More Earth-Like Martian Past

Is Mars keeping more secrets from mankind? After tons of astounding discoveries about the red planet, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover still continue to unearth evidence to prove that life may have thrived on the planet’s ancient days. The most recent discovery of the rover is chemicals embedded in Martian rocks, manganese oxide; it suggests that Mars had ample amount of oxygen before compared to its state today. This strongly supports the idea that the planet is more Earth-like than it is today.

Based on the Martian rocks, the findings suggest that there was a point in time where Mars’ atmosphere contains enough oxygen much like the Earth. This adds to older discoveries of water and ancient lakes on the planet that are considered pre-requisites of life. The new discovery will aid scientists in further studying the atmospheric nature of Mars.

Manganese oxides were discovered in mineral veins. The rover placed this in the timeline of ancient environmental conditions and the higher oxygen proliferation can be linked to the time where there was groundwater present on the surface.

“The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes,” Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico said in an interview published by Science Daily. “Now we’re seeing manganese oxides on Mars, and we’re wondering how the heck these could have formed?” Lanza added.

The researchers said that the scenario of Mars containing abundant levels of oxygen is entirely possible due to the fact that for manganese materials to form it needed an ample amount of liquid water and strong oxidizing conditions. Lanza compared this to Earth where manganese oxides didn’t manifest until such time when the oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose.

“One potential way that oxygen could have gotten into the Martian atmosphere is from the breakdown of water when Mars was losing its magnetic field,” Lanza said in an interview with NASA. “It’s thought that at this time in Mars’ history, water was much more abundant,” Lanza added.

But Lanza said it is still hard to confirm if the atmospheric oxygen indeed occurred on Mars. But their findings may present a new understanding of how planetary atmospheres become oxygenated.