There's water on Mars. Could there be Martians?
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 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, director of planetary science for NASA.
Scientists in 2008 confirmed the existence of frozen water on Mars. Now instruments aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have yielded what researchers said is the strongest evidence yet that water in liquid form trickles down certain Martian slopes.
And because liquid water is essential to life, 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 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, but magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. 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," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House science, space and technology committee, said in a statement. "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, a scientist on the project, 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 and 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, and 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, causing imaginations to run wild. In the early 1900s, amateur astronomer Percival Lowell claimed to have spotted irrigation canals. He 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 first noticed the streaks on Mars in 2010. Ojha and colleagues speculated at the time 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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Why does the discovery of water on Mars beg the question about life on Mars?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • mckaylas-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:52 p.m.

    The discovery of water on Mars is begging the question about the possible life on Mars because, water is one of many things that you need to survive. If there is life on Mars, it will be the biggest discovery ever.

  • laneys-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    It makes a theory because if there is water there is possibly life on the planet. It could be human type living things or animal type living things.

  • jasminpd-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    If there is water on Mars that means there should be life on Mars. If the is water and life on Mars it means we might be able to live on Mars one day. I think it is cool how they think we could live there but what happens if we do live there and everything runs out?

  • daizypd-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:54 p.m.

    Discovery of water on mars make people question if theres water because you need water to survive. Living things use water to drink and it makes oxygen.

  • karlees-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:54 p.m.

    The discovery of water on the red planet of mars, creates the question, 'is there life on mars?' It creates this question, because the most important resource is water, and that leads to life.

  • keatonm-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:54 p.m.

    I think that it is cool that they found water on Mars. If there is water on Mars that means that there could be aliens on Mars. It there were aliens on Mars I think that America should team up with them and get rid of ISIS.

  • amelianaa-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    Before there was a possibility of water, it was impossible for there two be life on Mars. Now that scientists my have found water, there is a chance that there are extra terrestrial beings on the red planet.

  • tycenb-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:56 p.m.

    The reason it suggests life on mars is because water is vital for any organisms survival. I'm excited for the mission in 2030 that is headed for Mars. Also the movie "The Martian" sounds good.

  • jacksonh-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:58 p.m.

    They think that if there is and was water on mars that there might be living things on mars. They also think that if it actually is water that in the 2030's we might be able to send people to live on mars.

  • briannar-1-ols
    10/05/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    I think that it would be amazing if there was life on mars. In 2008 scientist confirmed that there was frozen water on Mars. Because water is essential for life there could possible microscopic life forms on mars.

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