We have all heard for ages that Mars, the red planet does not have any significant water except for some water vapor in atmosphere and water ice at the poles. But at the recent MARS GLOBAL SURVEYOR SCIENCE UPDATE news conference NASA scientists presented evidence that Mars has a liquid water reserve. NASA TV’s live broadcast of the conference showed photographic evidence taken by Mars Exploration Program.
The evidence suggests that Liquid water – a key ingredient for organic life – appears to have flowed over the surface of Mars at least twice in the past seven years. That means the Red Planet could be capable of harboring life. The discovery points to underground deposits of liquid water rather then on the surface of the planet. These new findings may well vault the red planet back into the uppermost ranks of places to hunt for forms of life beyond Earth.
The atmosphere of Mars is so thin and the temperature so cold that liquid water cannot persist at the surface; it would rapidly evaporate or freeze. Researchers propose that water could remain liquid long enough, after breaking out from an underground source, to carry debris downslide before totally freezing. The two fresh deposits documented by NASA are each several hundred meters, or yards, long.
Wherever liquid water is found on Earth, there is also life, and most scientists consider its presence a prerequisite for the existence of primitive extraterrestrial organisms. If it sometimes exists on Mars today, it raises the very real prospect that life may not only have evolved there in the past, but could still survive there in modern times. The Science Fiction Alien may not be a fiction anymore. In science fiction we read abour or watch aliens with different shapes but life on Mars might be just microscopic bacteria-like life form.
Professor Philip Christensen of Arizona State University, a senior scientist with the Mars Global Surveyor team, said: "Five years ago, we were talking about water on Mars five million years ago. Today we can honestly talk about water on Mars today. That revolution in our thinking has really changed how we think about Mars and how we should think about exploring Mars."
At two sites, the Terra Sirenum crater and an unnamed second crater in the Centauri Montes region, channels were seen in images containing fresh, pale-colored deposits that appear to have been left by flowing water. At Terra Sirenum, the image changed dramatically between passes made in December 2001 and April 2005, and at Centauri Montes the changes happened between August 1999 and February 2004. The character of the deposits left by whatever cascaded briefly down these slopes, particularly the way it has flowed around solid obstacles, points firmly towards water rather than dust as the source of the new features and it wasn’t too long ago.
The real hero of this remarkable discovery is Mars Global Surveyor, which began orbiting Mars in 1997. The spacecraft is responsible for many important discoveries. NASA has not heard from the spacecraft since early November. Attempts to contact it continue. Its unprecedented longevity has allowed monitoring Mars for well over several years past its projected lifetime.
The core of this press release, is the simple fact that there is water on Mars and where there's water there may be Life. This discovery is a milestone of human space exploration, and might be the turning point towards a space civilization.
Source & further reading: Mars Global Surveyor