NASA unveils evidence of liquid water on Mars
The appearance of these gullies in the Gorgonum Chaos region of Mars suggest that liquid water has seeped out of the surface recently
(CNN) -- NASA scientists on Thursday revealed images of gullies, channels and deltas on Mars, which they said
indicate the presence of liquid water near the surface of the red planet and have
"profound implications for the prospect of of life" there.
Looking at close-up images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor
Spacecraft, planetary geologists have found signs of water
activity in numerous places, sources said.
Some of the water flow or seepage could have taken place as
recently as several days or thousands of years ago, a senior
NASA scientist said.
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A team of Mars researchers, including principal investigators
Michael Malin and Ken Edgett, discussed the discovery at a
NASA news conference beginning at 11 a.m. EDT.
Their findings will be
published in Science magazine on June 30, but the journal
posted the report on the Web an hour before the NASA media event.
Water mostly in the south?
Scientists have long thought Mars' surface coursed with water
billions of years ago, based on evidence of liquid erosion
and signs of ancient channels and seas. But the water all but
disappeared as the planet cooled and its atmosphere thinned.
Water is known to exist today as ice in the northern polar
cap and as vapor in faint clouds. But vast quantities could
remain trapped under the surface, according to planetary
Many theorize that such groundwater remains in a frozen
state. But the Surveyor images suggest that at least some it near the surface entered a liquid state, in particular in the southern region of the planet, according to the Science report.
Water may have once been abundant on Mars, then disappeared as the planet cooled and its atmosphere thinned
'Chance to find extant life'
Groundwater would likely turn into vapor or ice soon after it
bubbled to the surface. But the presence of liquid water
could strengthen the theory that life exists or once existed
"This is incredibly exciting. What this means is that we have
a chance to find ... extant life," Mars Society president
Robert Zubrin said.
Liquid water on Mars would also make travel to the
planet easier. Astronauts could convert water into
hydrogen and oxygen, using both as rocket fuel and the second
for breathing gas.
The Surveyor has taken photos of deep craters thought to show
evidence of water seepage. One 1997 image of the southern
Noachis Terra region reveals crater wall depressions possibly
left by leaking groundwater, according to Malin Space
Sciences, which operates the Surveyor camera.
Correspondent Miles O'Brien contributed to this report.
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Mars Global Surveyor
Malin Space Science Systems
The Mars Society
Mars Explorer for the Armchair Astronaut
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