When NASA says that they have a huge announcement, WE hear that there are alien life forms coming to greet us with threats to take over the planet! That would be exciting in a “well now we’re all going to be saved by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum” kind of way, but that’s certainly not the case. What gets NASA excited about is their recent discovery of water on the planet Mars…as if we didn’t know that already.
However, this discovery was a bit more complex though it still doesn’t provide concrete evidence of life beyond Earth. Aboard the Mars Renaissance Orbiter, NASA uses an imager that enables them to look at light waves which show dark streaks on the surface of the planet that are associated with water flow. The chemical in which these streaks absorb light are known to extract water from the atmosphere, which is s a process called deliquescence. Try to say that five times fast. The chemicals also allow the water to remain in its liquid form at lower temperatures.
In layman’s terms, what this means is that the conditions on Mars are more habitable than NASA previously thought them to be, depending on how salty and cold they are.
Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfield said, “Even if it’s super salty, briny water [it] gives the possibility that if there’s life on mars, that we have a way to describe how it might survive.”
Where precisely the water is coming from is still unknown, but they have come at least half a step closer to answering the age old question: ‘Does life exist beyond Earth?’
Director of planetary science at NASA Jim Green says, “We haven’t been able to answer it, but following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, a great opportunity to be in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that.”
It’s difficult for us mere mortals who base our other worldly knowledge on Independence Day and War of the Worlds to gauge how progressive this discovery is, but it’s NASA. They’ve got to be pretty smart, right?