Liquid water exists on Mars, boosting hopes for life there, NASA says

Sep 28, 2015

By Michael Person

Potentially life-giving water still flows across the ancient surface of Mars from time to time, NASA scientists said Monday in revealing a potential breakthrough in both the search for life beyond Earth and human hopes to one day travel there.

While the discovery doesn’t by itself offer evidence of life on Mars, either past or present, it does boost hopes of that the harsh landscape still offers some refuge to life.

“The existence of liquid water, even if it is super salty briny water, gives the possibility that if there’s life on Mars, that we have a way to describe how it might survive,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA.

NASA researchers using an imager aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter confirmed the watery flows by looking at light waves returned from seasonal dark streaks on the surface, long suspected to be associated with liquid water.

The investigation showed the streaks absorb light at specific wavelengths associated with chemicals known to pull water from the Martian atmosphere in a process known as deliquescence, said Georgia Tech doctoral student Lujendra Ojha — who first discovered the streaks while still an undergraduate student in 2011.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source below.

46 comments on “Liquid water exists on Mars, boosting hopes for life there, NASA says

  • Now we just need to find a microorganism there, and then a way to bring back, and then culture it, and isolate its DNA….

    That’ll really stick it up the religious who think life was created specially and uniquely only here on Earth by their favourite sky fairy.



    Report abuse

  • @OP – The investigation showed the streaks absorb light at specific wavelengths associated with chemicals known to pull water from the Martian atmosphere in a process known as deliquescence, said Georgia Tech doctoral student Lujendra Ojha

    The present atmospheric pressure on Mars, is so low that pure water sublimes directly from ice to water vapour.

    However, there is evidence that before Mars lost its atmosphere, there were seas or lakes of water with steams of running water.

    I suspect that some of those “seas” or “lakes” are now frozen solid as rock strata covered by Martian dust layers.

    With running water (as on Earth), salts are washed from rocks and soils with concentrated salt-water or dried up salt lakes, being concentrated by evaporation.

    On Mars the temperature is so low everywhere except on Sun facing slopes in Summer, that water remains frozen or sublimates directly into the atmosphere. It can snow out on ice-caps in winter, but what is happening here, is that water is being attracted by salt crystals to make very concentrated salt solutions (as anti-freeze solutions), which can temporarily remain liquid at these very low temperatures and flow down slopes before they evaporate or freeze.



    Report abuse

  • That’ll really stick it up the religious who think life was created specially and uniquely only here on Earth by their favourite sky fairy.

    What I can’t wait for is the mental gymnastics the religious will perform to incorporate any discovery of life on Mars into their religious doctrine. Hey, the mormons transported Jesus to America.



    Report abuse

  • What makes you think it would have DNA? If it evolved on a completely different planet, it likely evolved a different method of replication.



    Report abuse

  • T
    Sep 28, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    What makes you think it would have DNA?

    I think there are two aspects to this.
    First: – DNA MAY be a common form of replication.
    Second: – if living organisms are carried between planets by meteor impact debris, life on Earth and Mars could have a common source.

    If it evolved on a completely different planet, it likely evolved a different method of replication.

    If that was so, it MAY clearly indicate separate evolution.
    On the other hand, some earlier form of replicator , (such as RNA) could have existed there, and then evolved along a different track.



    Report abuse

  • Goddidit. Goddammit.
    Really, it won’t change anything for them. Fossils didn’t do any good. Chromosomes didn’t work. Science won’t work for them.
    Reality is the problem. Facts are worthless for the religious.



    Report abuse

  • David R Allen
    Sep 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    What I can’t wait for is the mental gymnastics the religious will perform to incorporate any discovery of life on Mars into their religious doctrine.

    You can begin your studies here:-

    http://exopolitics.org/vatican-preparing-statement-on-extraterrestrial-life/
    “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom… “Why can’t we speak of a ‘brother extraterrestrial’? It would still be part of creation…”

    Most importantly, Funes’ statement makes possible the idea that Christianity can be exported to extraterrestrial worlds that have not experienced a ‘fall’ and are free from original sin.



    Report abuse

  • You can begin your studies here

    This is my sad face that they are already preparing the ground to “Do Unto The Aliens” what they did to the peoples of South America through the missionaries.

    I only score the Mental Gymnastics at 7.4 for creativity and 6.1 for inclusion of the term “Brother”, a gender term, linked to the word Extraterrestrial. They may bud new offspring and may be gender neutral. Wouldn’t that upset the marriage is a Male / Female thing only.



    Report abuse

  • 10
    Robert Firth says:

    “Innumerable suns exist; innumerable earths revolve around these suns in a manner similar to the way the seven planets revolve around our sun. Living beings inhabit these worlds.”

    Giordano Bruno, in 1584. Sixteen years later, the Catholic Church had him burned at the stake. And now they have the infernal gall to appropriate his view as their own?



    Report abuse

  • 13
    J. Frank says:

    We need to strive for some real scientific truth here instead of being swept in by NASA’s media hype. Start by checking the phase diagram for water. At 600 Pa, the atmospheric pressure on Mars, liquid water simply does not exist at any temperature. NASA concedes that the “water” must actually be “strong brine”. Phase diagrams of salt solutions are hard to find, but for sodium chloride solutions, no concentration supports a liquid phase at 600Pa. NASA has observed black streaks on hillsides and called that evidence for liquid “water”. Unfortunately NASA has not even proposed a single chemical composition for that brine which is demonstrably liquid at 600Pa. So NASA’s conjecture is not a valid scientific statement. The next horribly untrue statement comes from Alfred McEwen, who is strongly associated with this announcement. McEwen claims that finding microbial life on Mars is now “highly likely”. Every mainstream evolutionary biologist agrees that even in the relative paradise-like conditions of planet Earth, the spontaneous evolution of reproducing life forms is highly unlikely, but contemporary consensus is that nevertheless, it could occur somewhere among the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies, and life on Earth is evidence that this indeed happened. But the conditions for life on Mars are hugely worse than those on Earth, so how could it possibly be true to say that life on Mars is “highly likely”? That’s a lie told by some dishonest “scientist” whose funding presumably depends on him telling people what they want to hear rather than scientific truth. Let’s keep being scientific about this, and base our conclusions on evidence, not on hope and faith. The chance of life on Mars is zero for all practical purposes, and black streaks on a hillside do not change that.



    Report abuse

  • “Every mainstream evolutionary biologist agrees that even in the relative paradise-like conditions of planet Earth, the spontaneous evolution of reproducing life forms is highly unlikely,”

    Huh, That’s not what I’ve been hearing for several decades.



    Report abuse

  • If it already existed before the atmospheric pressure went down to 600 Pa in a frozen state then doesn’t that solve your problem? Think Alan already covered that.



    Report abuse

  • J. Frank
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:08 am

    NASA has observed black streaks on hillsides and called that evidence for liquid “water”.

    This was discussed by space scientists over five years ago. The view is that ice below the surface, heated by surface rocks on Sun facing slopes possibly in conjunction with salt deposits or water from the atmosphere, can produce small temporary flows of water. Evaporation would further concentrate the salts in any outflow, until all the water had dried up or frozen and sublimated.

    Unfortunately NASA has not even proposed a single chemical composition for that brine which is demonstrably liquid at 600Pa. So NASA’s conjecture is not a valid scientific statement.

    These streaks look like evidence of flows of salt solutions, which could be formed by building up pressure underground and then erupt through the surface. There are plenty of cryovolcanic eruptions on moons with surfaces a lot colder than Mars, and where lower surface pressures prevail.

    The next horribly untrue statement comes from Alfred McEwen, who is strongly associated with this announcement. McEwen claims that finding microbial life on Mars is now “highly likely”.

    I think there has been much hype about methane being evidence of life – mainly from people who seem unaware of the vast quantities of methane in evidence in the outer Solar-System!

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-294
    Icy Aquifers on Titan Transform Methane Rainfall – JPL Caltec.



    Report abuse

  • alf1200
    Sep 29, 2015 at 12:23 am

    The term “spontaneous evolution” is misleading when talking about abiogenesis – of which there has been no evidence of further examples happening for billions of years.

    Evolution has continued as usual.



    Report abuse

  • I think that if we find life anywhere else in the universe we can all sit back and enjoy watching the Vatican construct some twisted logic to claim that whatever it is – it is Catholic!



    Report abuse

  • David R Allen
    Sep 28, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I only score the Mental Gymnastics at 7.4 for creativity and 6.1 for inclusion of the term “Brother”, a gender term, linked to the word Extraterrestrial.

    I think it will take some rather energetic mental gymnastics to try to integrate Genesis, Adam and Eve and “The Fall”, with the astronomy of exoplanets and extra-terrestrials!!

    However there are few limits on the circularity, inconsistencies, irrationalities, and compartmentalism of faith-thinking!



    Report abuse

  • Olgun
    Sep 29, 2015 at 2:11 am

    If it already existed before the atmospheric pressure went down to 600 Pa in a frozen state then doesn’t that solve your problem?

    While Mars is much colder than Earth, because of its greater and variable distance from the Sun, its longer orbit, its year, and its seasons, are much longer and more variable.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timekeeping_on_Mars

    It’s axis is very similar to that of Earth at present, so in Summer, Sun facing slopes get warmed over a longer season.

    The seasonal dust storms are caused by winds generated by snowed out CO2 and H2O, frozen at the poles in winter, sublimating in summer, generating gas-flows from summer pole to the winter pole in the opposite hemisphere.
    These storms will move rock dust and any exposed salts in dunes across the surface of the planet.

    The suspected flows of salt water were first discovered in the Sun-facing walls of craters, where the impacts had exposed and excavated, ancient strata.



    Report abuse

  • Olgun
    Sep 29, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Does that just mean that the earth now has the right conditions for evolution but not abiogenesis?

    yes! Any primitive life forms or replicating organic molecules generated now, would be uncompetitive with modern life, possibly be eaten by modern life, or poisoned by our oxygen atmosphere.

    First life had no advanced competition until evolution and diversity developed it.



    Report abuse

  • A careful re-interpretation of some of the more incoherant aspects of the bible (while quickly burying any theological commentry to the countrary) will show categorically that the correct religious books(s) knew all about life on Mars all along and indeed already has very a very detailed prescription on how it should behave and how it should be punished if it doesn’t.



    Report abuse

  • There are quite a few competing theories for abiogenesis all with something going for them but fewer satisfactory theories for the creation of complex cells and complex multicelled lifeforms.

    Life appears to have formed comparatively quickly, almost as soon as the Earth’s surface temperature had fallen below 80 Celsius, the DNA uncoiling temperature. Yet complex cells only formed a billion years later and complex multi-celled entities another 2 billion after that.

    Abiogenesis itself seems to be viewed as a comparative doddle (at least, that’s what the grant applications say). Theories currently really struggle with the details of the next two steps, but most demand the “expenditure” of lots of chance in fairly stable environments.

    Mars probably did not have had the stability of environment to get to the complex cells, if the Earth is any kind of model. Several abiogenesis theories also might not work on Mars if it didn’t have a sufficiently fission powered core and plate tectonics to create favoured environments like hydrothermal vents in oceans.

    Martian soup may have just managed to become prokaryote flavoured. I don’t think anyone is betting on more.



    Report abuse

  • phil rimmer
    Sep 29, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Its core has, also, become sufficiently viscous to lose most of its magnetic field.

    . . .Which means it does not have a protective magnetosphere like Earth. so any surface life (including bases) would be exposed to a wide spectrum of radiation from space.

    I would check out the Martian volcanoes for fossil lava tubes as safe haven for manned bases or for life, where there is a rock shield above keeping out radiation and small meteors!

    http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/lava-tubes

    Remarkably Mars may have two tectonic plates at least-

    I think any significant movement relevant to crust recycling, froze up and locked up, long ago!



    Report abuse

  • I would check out the Martian volcanoes for fossil lava tubes as safe haven for manned bases or for life, where there is a rock shield above keeping out radiation and small meteors!

    Lava tubes are caves which can be many miles long as well as being high and wide with walls floor and roof of set lava flows.

    http://www.kilaueacavernsoffire.com/
    Kazumura Cave is just one of several tubes that formed in that eruption which began at Kilauea Iki 500 years ago. Lava flowed for anywhere from 60 to 150 years, depending on who you talk to, and is quite possibly the reason why Kazumura Cave is the world’s largest known lava tube. With 40 miles of surveyed passages and a vertical extent of 3,602 feet, Kazumura Cave is not only the longest lava tube, but is also the deepest cave in the United States.

    If found on Mars, sections of cave could be sealed and pressurised for human occupation.



    Report abuse

  • 45
    Xtacrios says:

    Dear Centauri,

    As Dr. Christopher McKay explains, the ultimate discovery in the search for life would be a so-called “second genesis” [1]. This would be the discovery that would hurt the religious crowd most of all.

    Unfortunately, contamination is a major concern. As stated by the National Research Council, “nothing would be more tragic in the American exploration of space than to encounter alien life and fail to recognize it either because of the consequences of contamination or because of the lack of proper tools and scientific preparation” [2].

    However, mission planners are working hard to make sure this does not happen.

    [1] https://youtu.be/VHJRUYk3cHE?t=187

    [2] http://www.nap.edu/read/11919/chapter/10 | p. 84



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.