By now, we've all got a pretty good idea of what we'd see on a tour of Mars: a barren, dusty, exceedingly dry landscape punctuated by the odd crater. But back in the good old days — around 4 billion years ago — the Red Planet may very well have looked much, much different.
In a dramatic new video out of the NASA Goddard Conceptual Image Lab, animators conceive of what Mars may have looked like when its atmosphere and surface temperature allowed for water. The far-out animation is based on existing data collected by NASA — including information on sediment layering and surface erosion — that strongly suggest the Red Planet was once awash in waterways. The agency will soon have much more data on the history of Mars' climate, as they prepare for the launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission on November 18th. MAVEN will seek to explore climactic changes on the planet, and may also help unravel whether or not Mars ever supported life.