The rover’s main mission, which lasted three months, was to look for signs of ancient life. He studied minerals, the environment, and the distribution of water and ice in the plain, which is part of the larger impact basin in the northern Martian lowlands. The rover continues to explore its landing site and sends information back to the Tianwen-1 orbiter orbiting the planet.
Data from the rover’s first survey of the basin suggests that Utopia Planitia’s basin contained water at a time when many scientists thought Mars was dry and cold.
A planet in transition
Mars was once hot and humid billions of years ago, but something changed, turning the planet into the arid, frozen wasteland it is today. The Red Planet entered this period during what is known as the Amazon Epoch, which began about 3 billion years ago and is still ongoing.
“The greatest and most recent is that we found hydrated minerals at the landing site, which is located in the young Amazonian territory, and these hydrated minerals are (indicators) of aquatic activities such as activities (groundwater),” said Yang, lead author of the learn . Liu, a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Space Weather of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Center of Excellence of the Academy of Comparative Planetology.
Researchers analyzed data from the Zhurong rover on sediments and minerals found in the basin, as well as analyzes performed by several of the rover’s instruments on its surroundings. They found hydrated silica and sulfates similar to the hydrated minerals discovered through other missions investigating different regions of the Red Planet.
The minerals were contained in light-toned rocks, where the colors help highlight their composition. The researchers found that these rocks at the landing site represent a layer of durum wheat. This type of layer can form when a significant amount of water, either rising groundwater or melting underground ice, turns the ground into a hard crust after the water has evaporated.
The discovery of this hard crustal layer, thicker than the hard crust likely formed by atmospheric water vapor found at other landing sites on Mars, suggests that Utopia Planitia had a longer hydrological cycle than scientists have tens of millions of years ago predicted .
This adds to the growing evidence uncovered by Mars missions that the Red Planet has been undergoing wet-hot and dry-cold cycles rather than causing permanent and dramatic climate change. These climatic ups and downs could have been the result of active volcanoes or impacts from other celestial bodies, Yang said.
This discovery surprised researchers because previous orbiter observations had not revealed the signature of hydrated minerals at the landing site. Because of this, exploring with the rover is essential, Yang said.
Utopia Planitia has attracted the interest of scientists as some believe the area was once home to an ocean.
“The discovery of hydrated minerals (a) significant insight into the geological and hydrological history of the region and the climate evolution of Mars,” Yang said.
Yang said he hopes the rover can analyze the layers of a crater in the plain to find more information about the history of water in the area.
The results also suggest that there could be “significant water supplies” in hydrated minerals or even ground ice that future human explorers could use in manned missions to Mars.
“One of the most important resources for human explorers is water,” Yang said. “Hydrate minerals containing structural water and ground ice can be exploited as important water resources on Mars.”