Last week, NASA confirmed rumblings in traditional and online media outlets. The US space agency announced that liquid water flows freely on Mars. Thanks to the startling images and findings relayed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), NASA will more closely consider the site of their next ‘giant leap for mankind’.
The scientific revelation sheds light on the development and structure of the fabled ‘Red Planet’. In spite of earlier suggestions that water might flow beneath the planet’s crust, NASA scientists were stunned to find out that ‘streaks’ appearing in several images were in fact open, flowing water sources. The game-changing discovery enables the space agency (and others) to plan other, more ambitious excursions outside planet Earth.
“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,” John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a press release. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water – albeit briny – is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
With the use of an image spectrometer aboard the orbiter, scientists were able to focus on anomalies in the imagery. Soon, they began to notice dark streaks wiping across the landscape, along with hydrated minerals and sloping landforms. Importantly, the water appeared to ebb and flow depending on the season (Mars can be alarmingly icy, with temperatures reaching minus 23 degrees Celsius).
The MRO has been monitoring Mars since 2006. It’s seemingly sparse collection of just six instruments relay important coded information back to mission control. Against all odds, the MRO has been the cornerstone of several high-profile Mars-related successes. With this latest sensational story dominating the airwaves and the public attention, NASA has been keen to affirm their commitment to exploration and science.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said in the press release. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”
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