Liquid water has been confirmed on Mars! On Monday 28th September, NASA said that it has concluded that Mars has running streams of brine, or salty water. Hopefully this will be a significant milestone on the path to the eventual confirmation of life on our little red neighbour.
In the image shown above, you can see long streaks on the martian surface, which was suspected the be caused by running water. These are called gullies, and are commonly seen near rivers on Earth. Thus, this could either mean that Mars has active flowing water, or that these gullies are the remnants of an ancient water system. Using evidence from the MRO (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter), NASA has concluded that there indeed is active water on the planet, but also that these flows are highly seasonal in nature. Using spectroscopic analysis, the MRO has discovered that this water is extremely salty.
What does this all mean for the future of Mars exploration? Confirmation of liquid water brings us much closer to confirming life on Mars. Just like the first form of life on Earth, the first forms of life discovered on Mangala could be microbial and aquatic. Hopefully, this ground breaking discovery will spark another golden era of space exploration, reminiscent of the Space Race, a period of time when the Russians invaded low Earth orbit with their fantastic space stations and the Americans created history by putting men on the moon.
India has already proved that it is very much in the Mars race by pulling off one of the most successful Mars Missions to date (Mangalyaan). Indeed, what a time to be alive!