NASA has confirmed the existence of flowing liquid salty water on Mars, fueling the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
“Today, we’re revolutionizing our understanding of the planet,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington, during a press conference Monday. “Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past – under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.”
Speculation has been mounting that NASA’s announcement would involve flowing water. Scientists have long known that there is frozen water at Mars’ poles, but they have never discovered liquid water. The discover could have huge consequences for future expeditions, including NASA’s goal of sending a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s.
Scientists have based their findings on a spectroscopic analysis of the mysterious dark streaks on Mars’ surface called Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), based on data compiled by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The streaks have intrigued scientists for some time, fading during cooler months and recurring annually at nearly the same locations. “The dark streaks form in late spring, grow through the summer and disappear by the fall,” explained Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters.
Mary Beth Wilhelm of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. and the Georgia Institute of Technology said the evidence of salty water could have major implications. “Our results may point to more habitable conditions on the near surface of Mars than formerly thought,” she said.
“This is tremendously exciting,” added Green. “We now have a great opportunity to be in the right locations to investigate that.”
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