Isotopic Composition of the Martian Atmosphere

Science  01 Oct 1976:
Vol. 194, Issue 4260, pp. 68-70
DOI: 10.1126/science.194.4260.68


Results from the neutral mass spectrometer carried on the aeroshell of Viking 1 show evidence for NO in the upper atmosphere of Mars and indicate that the isotopic composition of carbon and oxygen is similar to that of Earth. Mars is enriched in 15N relative to Earth by about 75 percent, a consequence of escape that implies an initial abundance of nitrogen equivalent to a partial pressure of at least 2 millibars. The initial abundance of oxygen present either as CO2 or H2O must be equivalent to an exchangeable atmospheric pressure of at least 2 bars in order to inhibit escape-related enrichment of 18O.