FSpaceRPG article

Status: Official

Scientists during the 20th century had hoped that Mars still had some minor volcanic or at least geothermal activity in the present day. NASA unmanned missions to the red planet during the early 21st century began to increase hopes of finding such activity and fluid water on the red planet.

By 2010 a number of mounds that had been identified by the Johnson Space Centre in 2008 from photos taken by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter were confirmed as fossil remnants of hot springs. Most were thought to be several million years old.

The shapes and details of the mounds conformed to those found on Earth, such as in the Australian outback. They have distinct curved boundaries, a sagging bowl at the top and narrow curving channels that snaked around the terrain below with a distinct terraced appearance, much like some of the features in Yellowstone National Park in the USA. These features were first identified in the Vernal crater near the Martian Equator. They were typically 200 metres across by 400 to 600 metres in length.

Although the crater was estimated to be between 2 and 4 billion years old, it was suspected that the impact event helped heat up the underlying strata and was in part responsible for the generating the thermal source for the hot springs.

Confirmation was delayed because the orbital spectrometer on the MRO didn’t detect the silicate and carbonate mineral content expected as such sites. Later investigations on the ground many years later found the evidence required, and solved the mystery of why the orbital missions failed to detect the minerals. This proved to be because of the properties of the dust covering this and many of areas of Mars.

These sites were identified as possible landing sites for future missions in the hope of identifying sources of water and hopefully past conditions conducive to life. The theory being that life would most likely develop and be found in locations of warm liquid water with plenty of minerals, such as hotsprings. Some theorists also though liquid methane and ethane might prove useful locations to investigate in the outer solar system moons, but Mars was still the number one target.

Work on Mars was not illfounded, and with manned exploration and contact with the Aratani, some active geothermal springs were identified and primitive remains of life were found. The Aratani knew far more about ancient Martian biology than Terran science, and significant collaboration occurred since contact.

Categories: The Solar System

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