Mars arguably illustrates a worst-case scenario for our planetary future. As with the Red Planet, will deserts one day engulf the Earth? The barren Martian landscape evokes a vision of a planet-wide mass extinction, after all. But it may also hold secrets about our primordial origins too. In fact, once upon a time, Mars was covered with water. And the findings of a groundbreaking new study suggest that the planet was even more Earth-like than previously thought.
Scientific knowledge about our solar system has grown exponentially over the past 60 years. This is due in no small part to the work of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Established in 1958, NASA not only launches manned space flights, but it also develops robotic spacecraft and sophisticated measuring instruments. These include orbital telescopes, for observing and exploring distant regions of outer space.
In the 1970s NASA’s Viking program successfully landed two probes on Mars. This gave the world its first close-up glimpse of the Red Planet’s ominous, dust-filled surface. The probes – designed to analyze Mars’ physical composition – also took samples of the planet’s atmosphere and soil. Then, in 1993, NASA created the Mars Exploration Program (MEP) to further enhance our knowledge. This program deployed a range of rovers, landers and orbital crafts to fulfill its missions.