NASA's InSight Lander, which is closing in for its landing on Mars during the months-long, 300-million-miles-long trip, will complete an important mission that will help scientists better understand the interior of the planet and what changed it from being a place that could have at one time sustained life, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday.
"It used to have a strong sphere that protected it from radiation from space," Bridenstine explained to Fox News' "America's Newsroom." "That enabled it to have an ocean in its northern hemisphere. Three-fourths of Mars on the Northern Hemisphere was covered with an ocean and had a very thick atmosphere. In other words, Mars was actually habitable."
Bridenstine emphasized that he wasn't saying there definitely was life on Mars at one time, but life could have survived "about 300 billion years ago," but something changed.
"It lost its ocean and lost its thick atmosphere," he said. "We're trying to understand what caused that change and ultimately to do that we have to look inside Mars to understand its core, it's metallic core. Is it molten or solid and it is a part of the puzzle why it lost its sphere and being habitable to not habitable."
Meanwhile, it is not easy to put a Rover on Mars, said Bridenstine, as the planet has a thin atmosphere. The machine is expected to make its landing at around 3 p.m. Pacific time.
NASA has landed the Mars rover seven times in its history, with just one failure, Bridenstine noted.
"The only country on the planet that has successfully landed on the surface of Mars and today will be the eighth time," said Bridenstine.
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