Total Recall anyone? Nope. Not anytime soon.

Yeah, I know I used a 90’s movie to catch your attention.  And now we are all hearing Arnold say, “Get your ass to Mars!”

An artist's rendition of what Mars may have looked like with an Earth-like atmosphere.

An artist’s rendition of what Mars may have looked like with an Earth-like atmosphere. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Center.

So, as it turns out,  plans to terraform Mars into a suitable habitat for humans may be a long time coming.  The latest information from NASA’s MAVEN mission has provided scientists with evidence that atmospheric CO2 left the red planet a long time ago, and isn’t coming back.

MAVEN, which is short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, was launched in November 2014 with the mission to study Mars from orbit.  The purpose behind the mission is to help determine what made the planet transform from a warm, wet world into the dry, desolate planet it is today.

We have learned that Mars’ poles hold some water and CO2 ice, and the crust of the planet is thought to hold some of the greenhouse gas, too.  However, it appears that after the planet lost its magnetic field about 4.2 billion years ago, the atmospheric CO2 was swept away in the transformation thereafter.  Solar winds may have scoured the surface, eliminating the atmosphere.

This is indeed sad news for generation of us who are hoping to see humanity colonize the red planet.  Terraforming the planet is still an innovation some are developing, and in the next few decades humans are expecting to set foot on Martian soil. And MAVEN is learning more about how fast gases are escaping Mars into the solar system, which could lead to innovations in future terraforming endeavors.  Who knows?

Eyes to the skies, people.

References:

Scientific American

NASA.gov/maven

Total Recall

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