Water makes a splash on Mars

How did you react when the news erupted with the announcements of liquid water being found on Mars? The media exploded with reactions and responses from scientists and the public. While the general public was mostly shocked by this discovery, scientists were not all that surprised.

“What is particularly exciting with this new information is that this evidence supported the scientists’ leading hypothesis so clearly. There is no longer any confusion as to what caused those dark spots. This new information shifts the mystery away from what it is to how it got there. This is a question that possibly points to what research could be coming next for the red planet.” Dr. Dave Brain, the co-investigator of NASA’s MAVEN mission, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, to Mars said.

The MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014, to explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) discovered water on Mars on September 28, 2015. The first time the MRO landed on Mars was in 2006 with the intentions of studying the possibility of water in Mars’ past. The dark spots on Mars’ surface gave the MRO definite evidence that liquid water exists there.

There is one question that scientists are eager to find an answer to; can Mars support life? The dark spots on the surface of the planet appear to flow over time, much like water on planet earth.

“It’s the obvious conclusion to reach, but it’s not clear that it’s correct – it raises the question more than answering it,” Dr. Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator of MAVEN  said. “Liquid water is thought to be necessary for life to exist, and this is a clear detection of liquid water. But it’s a transient phase, not long lived. It’s in a form that is extremely salty and not conducive to supporting life like we have on earth.” It is still a mystery as to whether or not the water on Mars is or has ever supported life.

“These results are an important advance in our developing an understanding of how Mars works,” Jakosky said. “They’re not an end in themselves, but they’re an important step along the way.”

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