There's water on Mars. Could there be Martians? This undated photo provided by NASA and taken by an instrument aboard the agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks on the surface of Mars that scientists believe were caused by flowing streams of salty water. Researchers said Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, that the latest observations strongly support the longtime theory that salt water in liquid form flows down certain Martian slopes each summer. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona via AP)
There's water on Mars. Could there be Martians?
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Mars appears to have flowing rivulets of water, at least in the summer. Scientists have reported this in a finding that boosts the odds of life on the red planet.
 
"Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past," said Jim Green. He is director of planetary science for NASA.
 
Scientists in 2008 confirmed the existence of frozen water on Mars, and now, instruments aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have yielded what researchers said is the strongest evidence yet. It appears that water in liquid form trickles down certain Martian slopes.
 
Liquid water is essential to life so the finding could have major implications for the possibility of microscopic life forms on Earth's next-door neighbor.
 
"It suggests that it would be possible for there to be life today on Mars," NASA's science mission chief, John Grunsfeld, said Sept. 28. He spoke at a Washington news conference.
 
The rivulets - if that's what they are, since the evidence for their existence is indirect - are about 12 to 15 feet wide. They are 300 feet or more long, scientists said. They apparently consist of wet soil, not standing water.
 
The water is believed to contain certain salts. It is not ordinary table salt. It contains magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. So it's more like road salt used to melt ice and snow on Earth. Such compounds can prevent water from freezing at extremely low temperatures.
 
That would explain how water could exist in liquid form on Mars. The planet has an average temperature of minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
In addition to supporting life, the presence of liquid water could make things easier for astronauts visiting or living on Mars. Water could be used for drinking. And it could be used for creating oxygen and rocket fuel. NASA's goal is to send humans there in the 2030s.
 
Michael Meyer is the lead scientist for NASA's Mars exploration program. He said the only definitive way for now to determine whether there's life on Mars is to collect rocks and soil for analysis on Earth. It is something a U.S. lander set for liftoff in 2020 will do.
 
"Water is one of the most precious resources necessary for a human mission to the red planet," noted Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. He is chairman of the House science, space and technology committee. "The more evidence we find of it, the more encouraged I am for future Mars missions."
 
Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona at Tucson is a scientist on the project. He said he believes the possibility of life on Mars to be "very high."
 
The source of the briny water is a mystery. Scientists said it could be melting ice, an underground aquifer, water vapor from the thin Martian atmosphere, or some combination.
 
The evidence of flowing water consists largely of dark, narrow streaks on the surface. They tend to appear and grow during the warmest Martian months. They fade the rest of the year. The streaks are in places where the temperature is as low as 10 below zero.
 
They were spotted by the Mars orbiter's high-resolution, telescopic camera. Another on-board instrument detected the chemical signature of salt compounds combined with water.
 
McEwen said that there appears to be a "significant volume" of water. He speculated that it could fill many Olympic swimming pools. But it is spread thin.
 
Present-day Mars is nothing like ancient Mars. Three billion years ago, our most Earthlike neighbor had a huge ocean. But something radical happened. Exactly what remains a mystery.
 
The notion of water and life on Mars has been irresistible to earthlings for generations.
 
In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli spied what he called "canali" on Mars - Italian for "channels.  The word was mistranslated as "canals" in English, which caused imaginations to run wild. In the early 1900s, amateur astronomer Percival Lowell claimed to have spotted irrigation canals and theorized they were built by Martians.
 
In 2008, NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars and confirmed the long-suspected presence of ice in the soil. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the planet since 2006.
 
The latest findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The lead author is a doctoral candidate at Georgia Institute of Technology, Lujendra Ojha, who first noticed the streaks on Mars in 2010. Ojha and colleagues speculated that they were seeing flowing water.
 
For NASA, at least, the timing couldn't be better. On Oct. 2, the NASA-approved movie "The Martian" has its premiere.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does the discovery of water on Mars beg the question about life on Mars?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (291)
  • annal-sla
    10/05/2015 - 11:40 a.m.

    This article was about water on Mars and maybe being able to send people to Mars.I think that it's great that we found water on Mars. If something were to happen to Earth we could evacuate to Mars for a safe place to live.Or if something were to happen to the water supply here, we could send water from Mars to the Earth.That could save our lives. Also if there is actual living life on Mars, America could have the newest and biggest discovery in space. Although we probably should explore a little bit more in the oceans here before we explore in the rivers of Mars just to make sure we are ready in 2030.




























  • nikhilk-sla
    10/05/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    This article was about there being water on Mars, and how it would relate to martians existing. I don't thing that people would really care about the martians because we haven't even explored the moon completely, and we probably won't be able to try to find the martians. This reminds me of the movie "Martians," for pretty obvious reasons. My question would be when will we go to Mars? We have gone to the moon a lot and have g=created a settlement there, but when will we go to mars? I pictured little alien guys with antennas wandering around inside a hill. They smelled like rotten fish, and made weird squishing noises while walking around.They feel like hard rock. Of course, this is my imagination, but from movies and TV shows, his is what I think they would be like. After reading this, I felt excited to know that we are finally trying to explore different planets instead of just Earth and the Moon. I also hope that ordinary people can now go to the moon for vacation.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    10/05/2015 - 02:37 p.m.

    It would be very weird to find life on another plant, even it were a microscopic organism. I think some people are almost hopeful that there is life someplace other than Earth just because they enjoy adventure. Research like this almost makes me wonder if there could be some crazy living organisms that don't need water to live. While that seems crazy, so does the idea of life on other planets, yet it's not impossible.

    • iyuaglory-kid
      10/07/2015 - 03:10 p.m.

      not exactly water is the essential source of life to humans and also one day earth wont be here

  • zairras-sla
    10/05/2015 - 03:13 p.m.

    Mars has sources of water and NASA is trying to find out if there are martians in the red planet. I think it would be cool to live and visit Mars but Mars does not have gravity so it wouldn't really work if we want to live there. But I think it's pretty neat that Mars has water.

  • alekyaa-win
    10/05/2015 - 06:37 p.m.

    The discovery of water in Mars beg the question about life on Mars because every living thing needs or has water so MAYBE there will be life on Mars.

  • briannar-pla
    10/05/2015 - 06:59 p.m.

    A basic summary of this article, is that NASA has found water on mars. The water has a salt in it that we can relate to the salt we use on the icy roads during winter. NASA hopes that we can one day use the water for oxygen and hopefully as drinking water. The water on Mars leaves the question as to if there actually could be life living on Mars. Another thing that NASA would like to do is to send humans to Mars in 2020, so does that mean we will have Mars as a plan B if Earth cant sustain life anymore? I can relate to this article because I am interested in astronomy and it leaves me in awe that such wonderful discoveries are being made while I am still here on this Earth.

  • datv-win
    10/05/2015 - 07:13 p.m.

    I knew that Mars was fascinating but I would have never thought
    that it would have had water!

  • virginiam-2-bar
    10/05/2015 - 07:14 p.m.

    The discovery of water begs the question of life on Mars because most life could survive with just water and now that we know there is water we want to find out if there is life. I find it interesting that when we were kids we only dreamed of aliens and now there might actually be some.

  • colek-1-bar
    10/05/2015 - 08:02 p.m.

    The discovery of water on mars begs the question is their life on Mars because water is one of the main components for life. If their is water, there might be life where it is found, such as mars. I found this article very interesting. This did not surprise me because I already knew that there was life from my friends and the news, but it is still very intriguing.

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