Why do we care about water on Mars?

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Humans have been hunting for any sign of water on Mars. That’s because on Earth, almost everywhere there is water, there is life. A number of unmanned missions have flown past, orbited or landed on Mars. They have relayed back information that show signs that liquid water might have been on the surface of Mars long ago. Almost all water on Mars today exists as ice as seen in ice caps at the north and south poles of Mars.

http://www.esa.int/esaKIDSen/SEMHHS2IU7E_OurUniverse_1.html

But this week Italian researchers announced they had found evidence that a lake full of salty liquid water exists 1.5km beneath the surface of the Martian South Pole.

A few years ago, when Italian scientists were analyzing radar signals collected by MARSIS,  Mars Express spacecraft’s ground-penetrating radar, something caught their attention – bright reflections in the radar signals. Water reflects radar signals much more strongly than rocks and sediments.

Thus, these Italian astronomers spent two years examining the data ruling out all other possibilities and eventually concluded it had to be water.

They think the lake was likely able to stay liquid because of the huge pressure of the ice above it and because of the salts from Martian rocks dissolving into the water.

The next question is: Is this the only subglacial lake or are they more?  Underground water could protect potential life from the sun’s radiation. Then, could there be tiny life forms—like bacteria on Mars today?

NASA isn’t rushing to celebrate the Italians’ findings. They think they need more evidence. Will future missions help us?

What are some of the planned missions to Mars?

There are 5 missions in the pipeline, one of which is already halfway there. Let us hope they are able to relay more data back home!


Adapted By: Biyash Choksey

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