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  (Source: Warner Bros.)
Mars had materials rich in oxygen about 4 billion years ago

A new study suggests that Mars had an oxygen-rich environment long ago -- even before Earth. 

Oxford University researchers, led by Professor Bernard Wood of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences, compared meteorites and surface rocks before coming to this conclusion. 

The team studied meteorites from Mars and rocks found by NASA's Spirit rover on Mars' surface. They found that the surface rocks were five times richer in nickel than the meteorites. 

They believe this is the case because of subduction, where material is recycled into the planet's interior. The study says that Mars' surface was oxidized long ago, and through subduction, materials rich in oxygen went into the planet's interior and were recycled back to the surface about 4000 million years ago. Earth didn't experience a rise in atmospheric oxygen until 2500 million years ago. 

The meteorites, though, are younger rocks that came from deep within the red planet. Hence, they are unphased by this subduction. 

"What we have shown is that both meteorites and surface volcanic rocks are consistent with similar origins in the deep interior of Mars but that the surface rocks come from a more oxygen-rich environment, probably caused by recycling of oxygen-rich materials into the interior," said Wood. "This result is surprising because while the meteorites are geologically 'young', around 180 million to 1400 million years old, the Spirit rover was analysing a very old part of Mars, more than 3700 million years old."

Spirit, a golf cart-sized, solar-powered robot geologist that was sent to Mars in 2004, spent six long years traveling the Martian surface. But after enduring many harsh winters on Mars, Spirit finally fell silent in 2010, and was removed from the mission in mid-2011. 

NASA has been relying on rover Curiosity to dig up new info on the red planet now. It landed on Mars in August 2012, and has found rock samples that suggest life on Mars and questionable radiation levels that could determine human travel to Mars. 

Source: Science Daily

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By superstition on 6/20/2013 10:36:50 PM , Rating: 2
Mars couldn't hold its atmosphere much because it doesn't have enough gravitational pull. That's what my astronomy prof said a number of years back. Mars has been losing its atmosphere over time. The planet is too small. If it were the size of Earth, it would have a much more robust atmosphere and likely have significant life.

By Jeffk464 on 6/20/2013 11:39:56 PM , Rating: 2
I heard its because of no molten magnetic core, so no magnetic field to protect it from solar wind.

By Jeffk464 on 6/20/2013 11:41:37 PM , Rating: 2
Eh, molten magnetic core

By Jeffk464 on 6/20/2013 11:43:51 PM , Rating: 2
Crap, metallic core

By Kefner on 6/21/2013 1:09:53 AM , Rating: 5
What I heard was Mega Maid sucked all the oxygen away!

By BRB29 on 6/21/2013 12:27:59 AM , Rating: 3
Mars has a thin atmosphere because it lost its magnetosphere about 4 billion years ago. This allows the solar wind to strip air atoms away from it.

There are moons with thick atmospheres so it is not gravity. I would say gravity does play a role but a small one.

By ShieTar on 6/21/2013 5:46:28 AM , Rating: 5
It's a little more complex than that. Titan is the only moon with any relevant atmosphere in our solar system, and the reason why it exists is actually not very clear yet. It is widely agreed though that it needs to be replenishing by a release of gas from the moons interior or from external sources.
It is clearly not stabilized by the very low gravity of 0.14g, as this only requires an escape velocity of 2.6 km/s. A Nitrogen-2 molecule can reach this velocity after absorbing a single photon of a wavelength of 1.3µm or shorter, which is the majority of the solar spectrum. As a comparison the escape velocity of earth is 11.2 km/s, so Nitrogen-2 needs to absorb a photon with a wavelength of less than 70nm, which is only a negligible part of the solar spectrum.

By drewsup on 6/21/2013 7:14:53 AM , Rating: 2
An interesting experiment for terraforming would be to send out a bunch of cheap small mass drivers to nudge asteroids into a low speed collision with Diemos,( Phobos is a lost cause, it's orbit is decaying fast). One would hope that if enough mass is added to Diemos, the core of Mars would unlock due to tidal stress induced heat. Maybe Mars could be habitable with a magnetosphere.

By BRB29 on 6/21/2013 9:21:29 AM , Rating: 2
That is a long shot. The amount of energy and time it would require. We humans are not known to be patient.

By wasteoid on 6/21/2013 11:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Speak for yourself. I could easily wait *years* for Mars to be terraformed into a habitable pleasure destination.

By BRB29 on 6/24/2013 8:35:32 AM , Rating: 2
it would take more than years lol. It would take lifetimes and many many obstacles.

By delphinus100 on 6/23/2013 1:33:29 AM , Rating: 2
One would hope that if enough mass is added to Deimos, the core of Mars would unlock due to tidal stress induced heat. Maybe Mars could be habitable with a magnetosphere.

First, you'd need to make it seriously more massive to have any meaningful effect. Even Deimos and Phobos combined aren't enough to do anything.

Second, It's mostly a matter of primordial heat, and radiodecay of unstable elements in its mass, not 'tidal stress.' A larger sphere is going to lose less heat through its surface area, average density and all other things being equal, than a smaller one. Mars simply cooled off faster, Earth's moon faster still. Eventually Earth will become geologically dead, too. But not anytime soon. (IIRC. the Magellan orbiter may have detected current volcanic activity on the slightly less massive, slow rotating, moonless Venus.)

By delphinus100 on 6/23/2013 1:22:39 AM , Rating: 2
There are moons with thick atmospheres so it is not gravity. I would say gravity does play a role but a small one.

How well a planet (or other body) can hold an atmosphere is a function of gravity, the molecular weight of the gases in question, and the speed of those molecules (temperature) at the 'top' of its atmosphere.

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, can hold a substantial atmosphere in spite of being much less massive than Mars because it's mostly fairly heavy methane and nitrogen molecules, and because it's cold way out there. The chances are small that any of those heavy molecules will be kicked up to escape velocity. If you brought it closer to the Sun, that would go away fairly quickly.

The gas giant planets, however, are massive enough to hang onto light hydrogen molecules. The extrasolar 'hot Jupiters' we know to be out there are likely massive enough to keep significantly hydrogen atmospheres, even though within spitting distance of their stars.

Venus is pretty hot, has no real magnetic field either, but is massive enough to hang onto its mostly CO2 atmosphere, in spite of also being even closer to the source of the solar wind.

It's no surprise that colder but lighter Mars retains heavy carbon dioxide molecules as well.

It's not all about planetary magnetic fields and solar winds...

By marvdmartian on 6/24/2013 9:20:38 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't help much, when every time the Illudium Pew-38 Explosive Space Modulator gun was fired, it destroyed a little bit of the atmosphere, ya know?

Darn crazy Martians did it to themselves!!

Thousand Million?
By middlehead on 6/20/2013 12:47:08 PM , Rating: 2
Why not just say 4 Billion and 2.5 Billion?

RE: Thousand Million?
By clachman on 6/20/2013 1:20:31 PM , Rating: 4
Because "billion" means different things to different people. In the US (and for the most part in the UK), "billion" means "thousand million." But in other parts of the world, "billion" means "million million." See wikipedia

RE: Thousand Million?
By Motoman on 6/20/2013 1:28:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it's kind of wacky. The usage of periods and commas differ too, like to indicate decimal points and scale through thousands.

RE: Thousand Million?
By Mitch101 on 6/20/2013 1:58:11 PM , Rating: 2
For a very brief second I thought this was a divide by 1000 or 1024 issue.

RE: Thousand Million?
By FITCamaro on 6/20/13, Rating: -1
RE: Thousand Million?
By BRB29 on 6/20/13, Rating: 0
RE: Thousand Million?
By BRB29 on 6/20/2013 2:05:11 PM , Rating: 1
history of language makes my head hurt.

Let's just use 4 x 10^9 like what scientists would rather use to spare the confusion.

RE: Thousand Million?
By ShieTar on 6/21/2013 5:13:58 AM , Rating: 2
You mean 126 x 10^15 seconds? The Year is not an SI unit.

RE: Thousand Million?
By SkierInAvon on 6/20/2013 2:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
Why not just say 4 Billion and 2.5 Billion?
..because they probably didn't want to sound like Carl Sagan...

RE: Thousand Million?
By Flunk on 6/20/2013 2:16:27 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly, you're just splitting hairs here.

RE: Thousand Million?
By kattanna on 6/20/2013 3:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
because that would require changing the original article when you cut and paste it to here


By Omega215D on 6/20/2013 12:51:22 PM , Rating: 3
The hipster planet?

Quaid, start the reactor.

RE: Mars...
By Motoman on 6/20/2013 1:15:40 PM , Rating: 5
Martian microbe: "yeah, we used to breathe oxygen way back in the day...but we respire with a different element now. It's pretty probably haven't heard of it..."

evidence for life?
By makken on 6/20/2013 2:10:33 PM , Rating: 2

As I understand it, our oxygen rich atmosphere came mainly from biological activity. Would finding an oxygen rich environment on Mars be evidence of life?

RE: evidence for life?
By gamerk2 on 6/20/2013 3:34:47 PM , Rating: 2
Possibly, but not conclusively.

Still, water + free oxygen is a pretty good indicator that life probably existed at one point.

RE: evidence for life?
By boobo on 6/20/2013 11:37:48 PM , Rating: 2
The strange thing is that, on Earth, no matter how harsh the conditions get, life adapts. In tundra, in deserts, in arsenic, the bottom of the ocean, under a millennial glacier, under the crust, in the upper atmosphere layers, organisms always manage to stay alive.

If life like the one that we know on Earth had ever existed on Mars, I think it would still be there.

RE: evidence for life?
By delphinus100 on 6/23/2013 1:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
No problem. Life here started anaerobic as well, and there's still plenty of it. Free oxygen came much later.

By cyberguyz on 6/20/2013 1:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
If Edgar Rice Burroughs were still around, he would love this story

Clueless science
By Shadowmaster625 on 6/21/2013 10:04:45 AM , Rating: 2
Our planet has an atmosphere because it is constantly venting atmospheric gases from the mid ocean rifts. This outgassing is extremely massive in content, it has to be in order to maintain an atmosphere. Every planet with an atmosphere features massive outgassing at tectonic rifts. This is actually where all our salt comes from.

The gasses are mainly ammonia, hydrogen chloride, and various oxides. They undergo a simple chemical reaction that leaves us with massive amounts of nitrogen and oxygen in the air, and sodium chloride on the ground, as well as water of course. That is how we have so much ocean salt, it is the absolutely only way we can possibly have so much ocean salt. If you remove all the salt from all the seas, it would be enough salt to cover all the earth's land mass in 400 feet of salt.) It is absolutely NOT possible to have that much ocean salt due to erosion, and it is really stupid that people believe that nonsense.

The earth's molten magnetic core is somehow responsible for the production of all these gasses. The mechanism is not as well understood as it should be because of the stupid idiotic rigidity of the stupid idiotic earth-is-flat mentality of mainstream science. So much dogma has to be thrown out the window in order to accept this, but it clearly must be done because we cannot just accept bullcrap explanations forever (ie pangea was a giant blue eyeball with a little brown iris when viewed from space, I mean come on thats just plainly absurd).

At any rate, Mar's core stopped producing these gasses so its atmosphere dissipated.

An Antarctic Paradise
By drycrust3 on 6/22/2013 6:04:51 AM , Rating: 2
The team studied meteorites from Mars and rocks found by NASA's Spirit rover on Mars' surface. They found that the surface rocks were five times richer in nickel than the meteorites.

The problem I have with this is the earth doesn't lots of uniform rocks, it has the exact opposite: rocks all over the place with totally different content. As far as I can tell it's just about impossible to say these rocks aren't from here, and since it is far more likely that the "meteorites" were rocks ejected from volcanoes on earth than they were bits of the Martian terrain thrown into space by some massive meteor hitting Mars, then to call them Martian Meteors is wrong.
To me the most important point about these Martian Rovers is they are the forerunners of sending people, and the most obvious point that seems to be overlooked is sending people to a seriously lifeless place based upon poor information and wrong assumptions can only really have one logical outcome: death.
While we have just managed to send people to the surface of the moon, the fact is that was really a piece of cake in terms of space exploration.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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