NASA announced today that they have “the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.”
The space agency said they used Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imaging to study “signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet,” which appear to “ebb and flow” and vanish at cooler times as well as “darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons.”
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
The findings were published today in Nature Geoscience.
Lujendra Ojha of Georgia Tech, lead author of the report, said researchers “found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration.”
“In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” Ojha said.
House Space, Science and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the announcement “reminds us why we must remain committed to American space leadership and Mars exploration.”
“We live in exciting times. Water is one of the most precious resources necessary for a human mission to the Red Planet,” Smith said. “The more evidence we find of it, the more encouraged I am for future Mars missions. We continue to learn that Mars is an active planet worthy of further study.”