Water remained liquid on Mars for much longer than previously thought. Chinese rover finds evidence

China’s Zhuzhong rover has found evidence of water erosion of Martian soil at its landing site. This means that water remained in liquid form on Mars for much longer than previously thought. Mars is thought to have been wet at least 3 billion years ago, during the so-called Hesperian period, and later became dry and cold. But a new study provides evidence for the presence of large amounts of water on Mars as recently as 700 million years ago, up to the current, Amazonian period.

“Zhuzhong, named after the Chinese god of fire, landed on a vast plain in the northern Martian hemisphere called Utopia on May 15, 2021, close to where NASA’s Viking 2 landing module arrived in 1976. The rover’s primary mission, which lasted three months, was to search for traces of ancient Martian life. The rover continues to explore its landing site and send information to the Tianwen 1 orbiter orbiting the planet.

Data obtained by the rover suggests that the Utopia basin had water at a time when it should have been dry and cold by now. “The most important and unexpected thing is that we found hydrated minerals at the landing site, located in an area dating back to the Amazonian period, and these hydrated minerals are indicators of water activity, including the presence of groundwater,” said lead author Liu Yang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The researchers analyzed data from the Mars rover Zhuzhong on the sediments and minerals found in the basin, and conducted an analysis of the surrounding area by several rover instruments. They found hydrated silica and sulfates similar to hydrated minerals found by other missions exploring different regions of Mars.

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