With its calm water, rolling hills and fluffy clouds it could easily be Earth today. But this picture is how Mars would have looked 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists have known for some time the water once flowed freely on the Red Planet because of tell-tale valleys which could only have been carved by vast rivers, and sediment layers which must have come from the bottom of ancient lakes. But nobody knew where it went. Some researchers speculated that the Martian water evaporated into space following the collapse of the planet’s magnetic field billions of years ago, which destroyed its protective atmosphere. Now a new theory by Oxford University and the Earth Observatory of Singapore suggests that the water did not go anywhere at all. In fact it got absorbed into basalt rocks produced by volcanoes, where it caused an oxidising reaction and formed minerals. Dr Jon Wade, NERC Research Fellow in Oxford's Department of Earth Sciences, said: “People have thought about this question for a long time, but never tested the theory of the water being absorbed as a result of simple rock reactions. One reason why Mars lost all of its water, could be in its mineralogy.” A recent study by Northern Illinois University showed how much water once flowed on Mars based on the present day geography and geology Credit: Northern Illinois University Using computer modelling, the new study calculated how much water could be removed from the Martian surface simply through reactions with rocks. The results revealed that the basalt rocks on Mars can hold approximately 25 per cent more water than those on Earth, and as a result drew the water from the Martian surface into its interior. The researchers believe that the process was so powerful, the planet's crust could have consumed an ocean two miles deep. Nasa's Curiosity rover has found evidence of ancient lakes and rivers Credit: Nasa “On Mars, water reacting with the freshly erupted lavas that form its basaltic crust, resulted in a sponge-like effect,” Dr Wade added. “The planet's water then reacted with the rocks to form a variety of water bearing minerals, “This water-rock reaction changed the rock mineralogy and caused the planetary surface to dry and become inhospitable to life.” Many organisations are now planning colonies on Mars, including Nasa, Elon Musk and Mars One (pictured) Credit: Mars One However, the discovery that water never left Mars is unlikely to help future colonists. The researchers say the mineralisation process is not reversible, so the water could never be extracted. Several groups are already planning Martian bases, and even cities, including Nasa, Elon Musk and Mars One. But there is still some water locked up as ice below the surface of Mars which scientists think could be used by future travellers. The research was published in the journal Nature. read more Disclaimer: Chances are that this post was requested by an advertiser.