In a huge breakthrough in space history, NASA scientists on Monday confirmed that liquid flowing water has been found on the surface of present-day Mars.
The historic finding now adds to speculation that life either arose there or could exist on the Red Planet now or in the future.
Talking about this exciting news, the director of NASA’s planetary science division, James L. Green on Monday said:
“This is tremendously exciting, we haven’t been able to answer the question, ‘Does life exist beyond Earth?’ But following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that.”
The announcement in itself was historic as this is the first time that NASA officials have shifted their tone from repeatedly playing down the prospect that the dusty and desolate landscape of Mars could be inhabited in the future to admitting the planet might be able to sustain life.
The news, which was also posted on Nasa.gov, said:
“New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.
Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.”
What is more, the site also provided a quote from John Grunsfeld, who is an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington which said:
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected. This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
Further elaborating on the findings, Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology further added:
“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,”
The confirmation of flowing water is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions, which have been going on since 2006. Talking about the breakthrough, Michael Meyer, who is the lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said:
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet, It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”
Here is the animation provided by NASA which shows the Site of Seasonal Flows in Hale Crater, Mars confirming that flowing water exists on Mars: