Welcome to Mars
Spacecraft have been visiting Mars for more than 30 years. From orbit they’ve seen ancient floodplains, dried up lakebeds and river channels, strong evidence that this now cold, dry planet was once bathed in liquid water, the essential ingredient of life.
Recently scientists have found life on Earth in places they never thought possible before: miles deep underground, beneath Antarctic ice, even in boiling water by deep sea volcanoes, living on the chemical energy of sulfur instead of sunlight.
Wherever they look, if there’s liquid water, there’s life. So if early Mars had water, perhaps it had life, as well. But so far, attempts to find it have failed. And so have attempts to find proof that Mars really was wet.
To find the answer, Spirit and Opportunity will explore sites that look like they once had water and try to prove it on the ground. For Spirit, the science team chose Gusev Crater which they suspect was once a huge lake, fed by a channel the size of Grand Canyon.
And on the other side of Mars they chose Meridiani Planum, where an orbiter recently detected a mineral called hematite, which sometimes forms in contact with water. This is where Opportunity just landed.
The science team has been planning, rehearsing, and dreaming about this for years. Led by Principal Investigator, Steve Squyres, this all star collection of geologists and planetary scientists is about to start exploring Mars in a way that’s never been done before.