What could be the strongest evidence yet that Mars could potentially support life has been found by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, said this confirmed that “there was liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet.”
“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,” Meyer said.
But here’s the catch: The water may be too briny or salty to support life.
A video by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed a simulated fly-around look at one of the places on Mars — within Hale Crater — where dark streaks may indicate liquid water.
It said the streaks were roughly the length of a football field.
Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta said this would be the first spectral detection that “unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses.”
The researchers used an imaging spectrometer on MRO, and detected signs of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks were seen on Mars.
NASA said the darkish streaks appeared to ebb and flow over time, and appeared to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler 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, 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,” he added.