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The Chinese probe makes a surprising discovery of water at the Mars landing site

Zhurong landed in a large plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars called Utopia Planitia on May 15, 2021 – where NASA’s Viking 2 lander Landed in 1976.

The vehicle’s primary mission, which ran for three months, was to search for signs of ancient life. I have researched minerals, the environment, and the distribution of water and ice in the plain, which is part of the largest impact basin in the lowlands north of Mars. The craft continues to explore its landing site and sends the information back to the orbiter, Tianwen-1, which orbits the planet.

Data returned from the rover’s preliminary survey of the basin indicates that the Utopia Planitia Basin contained water at a time when many scientists believed Mars was dry and cold.

A detailed study of the findings, published Wednesday in the journal science progress.

changing planet

Mars was warm and humid billions of years ago, but something changed and made the planet the arid, frozen desert it is today. The Red Planet entered this period during the so-called Amazon era, which began about 3 billion years ago and is still going on.

“The most important and new thing is that we found wet minerals at the landing site that stands on the young Amazon terrain, and these wet minerals are (indicators) of aquatic activities such as (groundwater) activities,” said study lead author Yang Yang. Liu, a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Space Weather of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Academy’s Center for Excellence in Comparative Planetary Science.

The researchers analyzed the Zhurong rover’s data about the sediments and minerals in the basin as well as the analysis conducted by several rover instruments around its surroundings. They find hydrated silica and sulfate, similar to the wet minerals that have been discovered Through other missions studying different regions of the Red Planet.

The Zhurong rover gazes at its landing craft while providing a view of the landing site.

The minerals were contained within the brightly colored rocks, with the colors helping to display their composition. The researchers determined that these rocks at the landing site formed a layer of hard crust. This type of stratification can form when a large amount of water, either rising groundwater or subsurface thawing, turns soil into a hard crust once the water evaporates.

& # 39;  large amounts of water & # 39;  Found on Mars & # 39;  Huge version of the Grand Canyon

The discovery of this tough crust layer, which is thicker than the tough crust likely formed by atmospheric water vapor found at other Mars landing sites, indicates that Utopia Planitia had a more active water cycle tens of millions of years ago than scientists expected .

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This adds to the mounting evidence discovered by Mars missions that the Red Planet has gone through cycles of wet, warm, dry, and cold, rather than triggering one permanent, dramatic climate shift. Yang said these weather tides may have been the result of active volcanoes or influences from other celestial bodies.

fueling exploration

China has just become the second country to drive a rover on Mars

This discovery came as a surprise to the researchers because previous orbital observations did not reveal the signature of wet minerals at the landing site. That’s why rover exploration is important, Yang said.

Utopia Planitia has been of interest to scholars because some speculate that the area once hosted an ocean.

“So the discovery of wet metals (his) Important indicators of the geological and hydrological history of the region and the climatic evolution of Mars.”

Yang said he hopes the rover can analyze crater layers on the plain to find more insights into the region’s water history.

This perspective shows the landing craft's neglected heat shield in the background of the landing site.

The results also suggest that there could be “great stores” of water in wet minerals or even ground ice, which future human explorers could use during manned missions to Mars.

“One of the most important resources for human explorers is water,” Yang said. “Wet minerals, which contain skeletal water, and ground ice could be used as an important water resource on Mars.”