The latest data enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind.

The erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms, the authors noted.

“Mars appears to have had a thick atmosphere warm enough to support liquid water which is a key ingredient and medium for life as we currently know it,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.

“Learning what can cause changes to a planet’s environment from one that could host microbes at the surface to one that doesn’t is important to know, and is a key question that is being addressed in NASA’s journey to Mars,” he added.

MAVEN measurements indicate that the solar wind strips away gas at a rate of about 100 grams every second.

“Like the theft of a few coins from a cash register every day, the loss becomes significant over time,” added Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“We have seen that the atmospheric erosion increases significantly during solar storms. We think the loss rate was much higher billions of years ago when the sun was young and more active,” he explained.

In addition, a series of dramatic solar storms hit Mars’ atmosphere in M