October 5, 2015

Data gathered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has confirmed that liquid water flows on the surface of Mars. We have known for a while that water does exist on the Red Planet in solid form (ice), but this is the first time that conclusive evidence shows that water does exist in a liquid state.

In 2010, the MRO captured pictures of strange dark streaks that appeared to be bigger during summer and smaller during the winter. The orbiter analyzed these dark streaks and has confirmed that these streaks are formed by briny water flowing down the Martian surface. Lujendra Ojha, the 25-year-old graduate student who led the research team, told The Verge that he speculated perchlorates and water “flow downhill on the planet’s sloping geological features … [to] form a brine solution,” decreasing the freezing point of the solution. Those streaks are the salt deposit, Ojha believes.

The study published on September 28 shows, “the chemical makeup of the recurring slope lines.” Using the visible-infrared spectrometer on the MRO, it determined the composition of the minerals to be in fact hydrated salts with molecular water in their crystalline structure.

Ojha believes that there are three possible sources of the water. The perchlorates may be extracting water from the Martian atmosphere when it is humid, or from a sub-surface ice reservoir that becomes liquid when in contact with the salts. Ojha notes that “[there’s] even the possibility of an aquifer that is generating the water needed for the briny flows.”

This study strengthens the theory that micro-organisms could exist on the Martian surface. While scientists have already known that water does exists on Mars, this study could very well speed the process of colonizing Mars, because water remains one of the most expensive things to ship into space.


Works Cited

Grush, Loren. “NASA Confirms That Liquid Water Flows on Mars.” The Verge. 28 Sept. 2015. Web. 6 Oct. 2015. <http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/28/9408645/nasa-mars-water-flow-discovery-proof>.