Friday, October 2, 2015

Water on Mars

Did you guys all see the NASA news?  They’ve basically confirmed that there is actually flowing water on Mars during the summer there!  Pretty darned cool!

This isn’t entirely a shock.  The rovers found ice, so it stands to reason that there could potentially be water, too.  But the thing to remember is Mars is CRAZY cold.  To actually see evidence of flowing water is pretty amazing. 

To think that not long ago, most scientific types thought that while Mars may have once had water, it was long gone, evaporated into space.  Now we’re finding that it’s still there.  At least some of it is! 

What makes the scientists so psyched about this is the fact that on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life, and they think that might be the case on Mars as well. 

Now, I’m really less interested in whether there’s life on Mars than I am about the presence of water on Mars being a HUGE help to any future colonizers.  If the water weren’t there, we’d have to bring it or make it.  The fact that water appears to be present and accessible will just make it that much easier to colonize.

Unless they find life.  Right now there are rules in place that keep our landers and rovers away from any areas that could potentially have existing Mars life because they don’t want to contaminate it with human microbes.  That issue is actually something that’s going to need to be discussed (and probably argued about) in the near future as scientists want to get more probes and rovers to Mars to look at things closer and as future colonists (I’m looking at you, Elon Musk) want to go there in person!  

NASA scientists figured out there was water by noticing the dark, narrow, 100-meter long streaks (called recurring slope linea, or RSLs), which are flowing downhill on Mars.  They confirmed these were water by using an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (which is currently circling Mars).  The MRO detected certain hydrated salts at the same location where the RSLs were seen on these slopes at Hale Crater.
Image Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona