NASA discovers flowing water on Mars: How about that?

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleThere may not be any gold in “them thar hills” but NASA has still located the the mother lode.

The agency announced on Monday that evidence of flowing water was discovered on the Red Planet. The finding bolsters speculation by scientists that life exists on Mars or may have in the past. Water is one of the key elements necessary to sustain life as we currently know it and finding water on Mars is a big step toward further exploration and eventual manned travel to the planet.

NASA scientists say they have confirmed evidence that salty water intermittently flows on Mars’ surface. Previously, Mars was thought to be an arid, dust-covered wasteland until further observation revealed polar caps made up almost entirely of water ice. The discovery of frozen water ice at the Martian poles led some scientists to speculate that liquid water also existed on Mars, however, there was doubt that the thin Martian atmosphere could sustain liquid water.

Based on geological data and data from robotic probes, evidence was mounting to support the theory that water could exist on Mars as a liquid, but the evidence remained inconclusive—until now. Although the discovery of liquid water on Mars is a huge find, one of scientists’ next steps is to unravel the mystery of how the planet became the way it is today.

“We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm, salty seas and fresh water lakes,” NASA’s planetary science director, Jim Green told reporters at a news conference. “But something has happened to Mars, it lost its water.”

Discovering whatever that “something” was that caused Mars to lose its earth-like appearance is another puzzle piece in the quest to unlock more of the Red Planet’s secrets.