Potentially life-giving water still flows across the ancient surface of Mars from time to time; NASA scientists said Monday in revealing a potential breakthrough in both the search for life beyond Earth and human hopes to one day travel there.
While the discovery doesn’t by itself offer evidence of life on Mars, either past or present, it does boost hopes that the harsh landscape still offers some refuge for microbes to cling to existence.
John Grunsfeld Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA says that the existence of liquid water, even if it is super salty briny water, gives the possibility that if there’s life on Mars, that they have a way to describe how it might survive.
NASA researchers using an imager aboard the mars reconnaissance orbiter confirmed the watery flows by looking at light waves returned from seasonal dark streaks on the surface, long suspected to be associated with liquid water.
It remains unclear where the water comes from. Theories include deliquescence, melting subsurface ice or even a liquid-water aquifer that feeds the process. Discovering what precisely is causing the phenomenon is a mystery for the next round of investigations, said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars exploration program.
The researchers’ findings are in a new paper being presented this week at the European Planetary Science Congress in France.