The NASA scientist in charge of the spacecraft orbiting Mars says the red planet is a lot like Utah.
"Much of the southern part of Mars looks like Utah when you fly over it in the winter," said geologist Arden Albee of the California Institute of Technology. He is the chief scientist for NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft."You see spurs and ridges - and powder just streaming down off those ridges. It's fine-grained dust, but it has the appearance of powder snow of Utah. You almost expect to see ski tracks."
Albee spoke at the Salt Palace as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists concluded its annual convention. Albee, whose spacecraft orbits Mars, was joined by Matt Golombek, chief scientist for the Mars Pathfinder lander and Sojourner rover that explored Mars last summer.
Albee said Global Surveyor showed Mars has sand dunes and gypsum deposits, as does Utah.
Mars has Utah-like box canyons where ground water seeped out of aquifers, although the Martian canyons probably formed during massive floods, he said. "On Mars it may have been more catastrophic than in Utah but a similar process."
Water no longer flows on Mars. Surveyor and Pathfinder photographed clouds of water ice floating in Mars' night sky, then vaporizing in sunlight.
Pathfinder and Sojourner landed July 4 on a rocky plain swept 3 billion years ago by a flood that lasted two weeks and contained water equivalent to the Great Lakes, Golombek said.