The human species has always yearned for new frontiers. In the words of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, “As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for all things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.” The Red Planet Mars has always been one of our prime targets for space colonization and expansion, and now that dream grows ever closer to reality.
Liquid water has been discovered on Mars. At first it seems impossible. The surface temperature is far too low. However, recent developments have revealed the existence of chemicals that not only allow liquid water to flow, but also prevents it from evaporating and dissipating into space due to the planet’s nearly nonexistent atmosphere.
How did we make such an exciting discovery? In 2011, University of Arizona undergraduate student Lujendra Ojha remarked on strange streaks on Mars’ surface according to photos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Today, he is a Georgia Tech graduate student and has continued his research into the subject.
Water has been known to exist on Mars, albeit in different forms and in different times. Scientists have revealed frozen ice caps at the north and south poles, and there is evidence that the planet hosted liquid water in much greater quantities long ago. The discovery of remnant methane in particular has brought scientists to the conclusion that life existed there once. However, the planet has since suffered some sort of calamity, losing geothermal heat and atmospheric density to the perils of space, and with them went the water.
Now, with the discovery of liquid water still possible on the Red Planet, the next step is to ascertain where it comes from. According to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program’s lead scientist Michael Myers, that is exactly what they will be doing. Whether it is drawn from the soil and collected or directly from some subterranean aquifer is unknown as of yet. Hopefully this monumental breakthrough will serve to launch us further down the path of space travel and the exploration of new worlds.