NASA finds evidence of Water on Mars
Spaceflight Now, June 21, 2000
Confirming what scientists had long theorized, NASA will announce Thursday that water has been found on Mars. The Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft currently orbiting the planet made the detection. MGS was launched in 1996 to map the Martian surface. Among the news reports circulating was a BBC story. The report today said evidence of liquid surface water was detected "in the central part of the mighty Valles Marineris, the 6,000 km long (3,700 miles) canyon that scars the Martian surface." Images taken by MGS show blackish, or dirty, water seeping from beneath the surface in an area of layered terrain and pooling. The report said the seepage could occur only seasonally, explaining why it had not been seen in all images taken of the region. Because the Martian atmosphere is too thin, water is unable to exist on the planet's surface today. However, central parts of the Valles Marineris canyon are a few miles lower than the rest of the surface, giving credence to higher atmospheric pressure and the suspected water seepage, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, other scientists say they might have found similar water seepage on the walls of at least two craters in other parts of the planet Mars, the BBC story went on to say. Rumors about the discovery were initially reported by the NASA Watch Web site earlier this week, which said the White House had been briefed on a major finding by MGS. The site later reported a paper was being prepared for the upcoming issue of the journal Science. NASA's long-term Mars exploration program, which suffered the loss of two robotic missions last year, has been geared toward finding water on Earth's neighbor. Vast oceans are believed to have once flowed on Mars and scientists have suspected some water might still be trapped below the planet's surface. The ill-fated Mars Polar Lander probe was headed for the Martian south pole last December to dig for water ice just below the surface. But the craft crashed. The discovery of present-day liquid water potentially has profound implications about whether there is or was life on the Red Planet. Water is considered the cornerstone to life, and NASA's Mars research efforts have been dedicated to find evidence of past of present water. Such a finding of water, space agency officials have said, would be a major step forward in answering the question of where life has ever existed on the planet closest to Earth.