Published: Sept. 1, 2010

photo of mars

This view of Mars was taken from Earth by the refurbished NASA Hubble Space Telescope in 1997. NASA

Mars may have been home to an ocean and microbial life, according to CU scientists Brian Hynek and Gaetano Di Achille. The LASP researchers studied the elevations of several dried-up river deltas on Mars and found that 17 of 52 of the deltas lie at similar elevations. Similarly, Earth’s deltas lie at the same elevation and reflect the current sea level.

Hynek explains the ocean would have existed 3.5 to 3.7 billion years ago and lasted several million years — the time it would have taken for deltas to form.

“If Mars had oceans for even a couple hundred million years, it gives me hope that we’ll find evidence of past microbial life on Mars,” he told National Geographic.

In other space news, three of CU’s biomedical payload devices traveled on NASA’s Atlantis shuttle in May. One device will hopefully help scientists determine why slimy, troublesome microorganisms called biofilms flourish in space. Biofilms can negatively impact the spacecraft and astronaut health. The space crew carried out experiments and returned to Earth with samples.