NASA video imagines young Mars with lakes and clouds

NASA's Goddard Conceptual Image Lab has released a video illustrating the way Mars might have looked 4 billion years ago, back when both Mars and Earth were young. It's one of the most complex scientifically informed animations the studio has ever produced, NASA says, and it is breathtaking. The music is epic– like something you'd hear in an ancient battle movie scene–and the watery, cloudy scenery will really get your imagination going. There's even a surprise ending. Check out the video after the jump.

The video shows Mars as it was in the early days when it could support the existence of standing water. Scientists hold that the planet used to have an atmosphere capable of pressurizing water to keep it glued to the surface instead of evaporating. The clouds in the video look exactly like clouds on Earth, and the mountainous terrain reminds us of, say, the southwestern United States.

The space probe shown at the end of the video–making a grand entrance Gene Roddenberry would be proud of–is the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe, or "MAVEN." MAVEN is part of a NASA project to investigate the evolution of Mars' climate. These days it's a bit more on the desert side than the wet and warm side, as Mars experts believe it was.

The MAVEN probe will be launched this month and arrive in orbit around Mars by September of next year. (Less than one year is a quick journey, galactically speaking.) Maybe we'll get some more answers as to why exactly Mars lost its Earth-like qualities. Until then, let the "We're Martians!" theories roll.