Missions of space agencies to explore Mars have returned countless fascinating insights over the years. Recently, the European Space Agency shared stunning new photos of the Red Planet’s very own “Grand Canyon”.
Dubbed Grand Canyon because of its resemblance to the striking red rock formation in the US, the structure on Mars is actually called Valles Marineris. It is 3,000 kilometres long -- 10 times Earth’s Grand Canyon.Deep inside Valles Marineris is a trough called Hebes Chasma -- parts of which contain water-bearing minerals. “This is proof that at least significant quantities of water once existed in Hebes Chasma,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
Hebes Chasma’s origins are believed to be connected to the nearby Tharsis Region, which was uplifted because of “intense volcanism”. “The uplift created tremendous amounts of stress in the crust forming a series of faults oriented radially,” the space agency added.
Most of the water on Mars exists in the form of ice in polar regions. Over the years, space exploration missions have looked for near-surface water on Mars “as ice covering dust grains in the soil, or locked up in minerals”. Small amounts have been found in lower altitudes.
“However, such studies have only explored the very surface of the planet; deeper water stores could exist, covered by dust,” the European Space Agency says.
In 2021, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter – belonging to ESA and Russian space corporation Roscomos -- had discovered significant amounts of water in Mars’ Grand Canyon Valles Marineris.