Thursday, July 17, 2008
There has been a long-running debate about whether Mars had flowing surface water despite its small size and thin atmosphere. Recent probes and studies have given the "yes" side the advantage, and NASA scientist now think they've settled the topic. Spectroscopy from Martian orbit has detected compounds made in the presence of water in greater proliferation than anyone expected. Mars had large lakes and flowing rivers, which persisted for many millions, even billions, of years. Brown University scientist Jack Mustard declares, "It wasn't this hot, boiling cauldron. It was a benign, water-rich environment for a long period of time." The implications for life - or at least fossilized microbial life traces - are obvious. Future rovers, two of which (one NASA, one ESA) are in preparation, have rich targets to explore in the search for such traces.