Segments in this Video

Comparative Planetary Evolution (04:03)


Earth and Mars were similar four billions years ago, with dense atmospheres retaining surface liquid water. Both were created from dust and gas leftover from the sun’s formation; their differing sizes and distances from it determined their divergent futures.

Initial Exploration and Data (02:51)

Mariner IV launched in 1964, and transmitted close up pictures of Mar’s surface; in 1975, the Viking mission landed successfully and provided color images. Spirit and Opportunity Rovers landed in 2004 and discovered evidence of ancient flowing water, prompting questions regarding potential life on the planet.

Chemical Elements of Life (07:19)

Curiosity Rover entered Mar’s orbit in 2012, touching down in Gale Crater; it sent pictures of a dry riverbed. After 61 days of collecting soil samples, it analyzed them, finding water molecules and a small amount of organic carbon matter.

Hostile Habitat (02:16)

Earth is the only planet in the solar system harboring life and covered in liquid water. Four billion years ago, it was molten rock. Chemical analysis of the oldest stones shows carbon dioxide saturation; the oceans were too acidic to evolve lifeforms at that time.

Late Heavy Bombardment (05:17)

Exploration of the lunar surface provided data regarding the formation of Mars and Earth; impact craters were found, formed during a period of high activity almost four billion years ago. All inner planets of the solar system were resurfaced by the event.

First Earthlings (03:21)

Volatile conditions of the Late Heavy Bombardment may be responsible for converting organic molecules into DNA; life can begin where dynamic geological environments are present.

Fertile Environment (04:29)

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter investigates habitats where life could have evolved; it analyzes the oldest rocks from the Eridania Basin, detecting mineral deposits formed by deep sea hydrothermal activity. The planet had correct conditions for lifeforms present for millions of years.

Climate Shifts (06:14)

Maven’s mission is to discovery processes that transformed Mars. Surface analysis reveals changes resulting from increased volcanic activity that triggered massive floods, then water evaporation. Atmospheric studies show gases still being lost to space.

Losing Heat (09:19)

Mars once had a molten iron core generating a protective magnetic field; it disappeared half a billion years after planet formation. Its small size equated to inadequate thermal energy and rapid cooling; volcanic activity ceased, water froze, and solar winds stripped atmospheric components away.

More to Discover (03:55)

The Mars Exploration Program 2020 endeavors to examine the planet in further detail and search for lifeforms; a manned mission is being prepared. Considering the volume of potentially habitable worlds, finding life there would dictate that its presence is universal.

Credits: Mars (00:52)

Credits: Mars

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Episode 2: Mars (NOVA: The Planets)

Part of the Series : NOVA: The Planets
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Mars was once a blue water-world studded with active volcanoes. But when its magnetic field and protective atmosphere faded, it became the frozen desert planet we know today. With so many necessary elements in place, did life ever form on Mars?

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL191991

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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