Martian water: back on again

Paul Raven @ 05-08-2011

I’ve lost count of the number of times that the scientific consensus on whether or not there’s liquid-phase water on Mars has changed, and that’s just within the span of me blogging here at Futurismic (so, six years or thereabouts). But it looks like we just flipped back toward certainty, as images from NASA’s Mars Recon Orbiter show what may well be streams of salt-saturated water flowing down slopes during the Martian equivalent of summer:

More than a thousand dark trails were observed running down some slopes in Mars’s southern hemisphere during warm periods of the year, fading in the autumn.

There are more trails on the warmer, sun-facing parts of the planet, which would be consistent with water that flows in summer and freezes in winter.

Researchers from the University of Arizona said that salty water was the “best explanation” for the markings, which are between half a metre and five metres wide and run for hundreds of metres down some craters.

Although the images do not provide definitive proof of salt water on Mars, scientists claim that temperatures on the sun-facing areas of the planet’s surface would be too warm for frozen carbon dioxide and too cold for pure water.

Science being science, of course, this is merely well-informed speculation based on accumulated evidence, and the boffins are at pains to point out that more research and observation is required before anyone can talk in terms of true certainty.

So I’ll say it again: let’s just go there already.

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2 Responses to “Martian water: back on again”

  1. j.mele says:

    Funnily enough, I’m not particularly jazzed about trips to Mars, even with liquid water. I don’t understand why everyone wants to immediately jump back down a well after burning all that fuel to get out. The old Von Braun and O’Neil style habitats, sitting at Trojan or La Grange points seemed like a better spot to colonize. And while I’m all for manned exploration of space, I think we should keep shooting robots to Mars for a bit and get serious about near earth resource and power exploitation. That’ll probably be the Moon and nearby objects.

    As a complete aside, I think that there’s been a narrative tendency in dealing with space towards exploration rather than exploitation. I think it’d be worthwhile for a pretty serious, earth-needs driven component into how we look at space. Rather than just exploration, there should be a focus on space exploration that directly impacts life on earth.

    Money for manufacturing, solar collection (and transmission), bioremediation and biocycle maintenance efforts should be just as important as determining the presence or absence of liquid water on Mars. Honestly (and temporarily), practical space tech should get a priority until there’s something like parity.

    This has a dual purpose: it gets a lot of investment in the kind of heavy, expensive tech that the promise of profits can lure, and makes later space efforts more secure against economic and political turmoil by building an incentive besides bureaucratic inertia.

    /my$.o2 (1889 adjusted, apparently)

  2. Speaker To Managers says:

    Well, you see how important it can be to pay the utility bills. If someone hadn’t paid up they’d never have turned it back on again.