Mars illustrates a worst-case scenario for our planetary future. Like the Red Planet, will deserts one day engulf the Earth? The barren Martian landscape evokes a vision of a planet-wide mass extinction. 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 last 60 years. This is largely thanks to the work of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Established in 1958, NASA not only launches manned space flights, it also develops robotic spacecraft and sophisticated measuring instruments. These include orbital telescopes, for observing and exploring distant regions of outer space. Furthermore, it is the world’s foremost space agency.
Indeed, in the 1970s NASA’s Viking Program successfully landed two probes on Mars. This gave the world its first close-up glimpse of its ominous, dust-filled surface. Designed to analyze the planet’s physical composition, the probes took samples of the atmosphere and soil. Then, in 1993 NASA created the Mars Exploration Program (MEP) to further enhance our knowledge. It deployed a range of rovers, landers and orbital crafts.