After decades of looking, a NASA spacecraft has found evidence of liquid water on Mars. Billions of years ago, Mars was flowing with water, but for the past few decades that we've been researching the red planet, the only H2O to be found was in the air, soil, and the ice in the planet's poles. Five years ago, however, researchers noticed "mysterious dark streaks running down the warm slopes of Martian craters and mountains." They entertained the possibility that this could be water. To test this hypothesis, they sent a spacecraft, which noticed "deposits of perchlorate" that were being moistened by a compound none other than water.
NASA made the announcement via livestream at 11:30 a.m. People had already guessed what the news was, but they were still excited nonetheless:
Researchers are still uncertain how exactly the water is there:
Maybe the perchlorate itself is pulling water vapor out of the Martian atmosphere. Or maybe water from melting ice flows down hillsides and soaks the perchlorate in the soil. Or maybe water is trickling out of an aquifer.
That doesn’t mean Mars has frogs and bulrushes. It’s not clear how much water is flowing on the surface, but each wet place may be less of a stream and “more of a sludge,” says planetary scientist David Vaniman of the Planetary Science Institute, who was not a part of the study team. Anyway, perchlorates are toxic.
“Water is the elixir of life,” says Mars expert Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, who wasn’t part of the study either. Still, “I wouldn’t particularly want to live in a perchlorate fluid.” Ojha concedes that the briny water spotted by his team would not be hospitable to living creatures.
It's also unclear how exactly this could help a manned mission to Mars, but it will help nonetheless. As mama always said, some water is better than no water when the atmosphere is trying to kill you.