NASA announced that they have found evidence of four different areas containing hydrated salts on the slopes of Mars on Monday, September 28.
Scientists discovered recurring slope lines (RSL). Researchers have been seeing these dark streaks since they first were spotted in 2010, but since the technology was not as advanced as it is now, science was not able to get a closer look.
Scientist Lujendra Ojha was the one who first proposed the theory that water exists on Mars. At the time, Ojha was an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona in 2010. He was studying dark, finger-shaped images on Mars, which led him to believe that it was water.
The lines appear on the plane’s sun-facing slopes during the warm seasons, and disappear for the rest of the year.
NASA has had many theories in the past that water existed on the red planet, but the hints were never enough to prove such a theory; they have known for many years that Mars has frozen water at its poles and in its thin atmosphere.
The rover that is up there right now worries scientists because it is not sterile and it can risk contaminating the wet areas with earthly bugs that have hitched a ride to the planet and may still be alive.
The big question remains – is there a possibility that life could exist on Mars? Water is essential to life on earth, so maybe there are some forms of extraterrestrial life roaming the planet.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, an astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
Yet scientists still do not know where the water is coming from, or if the chemistry is even right for supporting life.
“Since the planet looks completely lifeless as it is, there might not be life up there yet. When earth had water, it took years for life to come up,” says sophomore Mary Anne Tenerelli.
If there really was any alien life lurking on Mars, they will most likely not be the green beings we used to believe existed in space. Instead, scientists are expecting to find tiny microorganisms, not complex beings like the ones on our planet. That means finding a form of life on Mars is going to be tricky. They could look like microbes here on earth, or they may look like nothing we have ever seen before.
“I don’t know if we should be sending astronauts up to Mars yet because we have no idea what could be up there. I think we should wait until we can see what is up there through the rovers and then send people up,” says sophomore Aisha Malik.
Until we can find astronauts to send to Mars in the 2030’s to gather samples themselves, we are stuck trying to find life on Mars virtually through the rovers.
If NASA does discover life on Mars, what do you think the organisms would look like?