Liquid Water on Mars–Maybe
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) may have documented evidence of seasonal water flow of some kind on Mars. Today (8/4/2011), NASA scientists announced some findings, videos, and images and speculated about their possible meaning. They didn’t seem to think it would be useful for colonization, since pure water ice is more common on Mars, and more useful, but it is possible that it might represent an environment for existing life on Mars.
What they found are what appear to be seasonal “dark flows” from channels emanating from exposed bedrock on the rims of certain fairly young impact craters in the southern hemisphere of the planet.
They admit that the findings are highly speculative, with some odd details, and that any liquid water would have to be very, very salty and likely just wet ground vs dry ground. More studies, mostly in laboratories and similar permafrost conditions here on Earth, will need to be conducted by others to fully explain these findings, rule out any other explanations, and provide details that we can’t gather from Mars directly. No rover, now or in the near future, can visit these particular areas for direct sampling.
This is important in the debate of whether life is common or uncommon in places other than Earth. Does an ecosystem have to reach a certain threshold of conditions before evolution kicks in, or does it require only the most ragged edge of survivability? If a place like Mars (with arctic to subarctic temperatures, 1% of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, and scant water, mostly in permafrost and thin layers of surface ice) has life that did not originate here on Earth, then scientists can expect to find life almost anywhere else in the cosmos. Otherwise then maybe not.
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- Evidence Builds For Water on Mars (livescience.com)
- What Built Mars’ Canals? (usnews.com)
- Water on Mars? Maybe Not (abcnews.go.com)