News FocusLunar and Planetary Science Conference

Tougher Times for Any Life on an Early Mars?

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Science  13 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6078, pp. 150-151
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6078.150-b

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While his fellow planetary scientists have been haltingly moving away from visions of a "warm and wet" early Mars conducive to the origin of life, James Head has been building a case that Mars has been bitterly cold and hyperarid for almost all of its 4 billion years. A few splashes of cold running water lightly carved the surface several billion years ago, he allows, but otherwise the surface, at least, of the Red Planet has most likely never been a place for life. In the meeting's sole plenary lecture, Head, a planetary geologist at Brown University, marched back in martian time to argue that Mars has always been cold and dry.