NASA tipped to announce gamechanger scientific breakthrough for Mars missions

Part of "Marathon Valley," a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the planet Mars, as seen from an overlook north of the valley © NASA / Handout via Reuters
NASA researchers are to reveal a groundbreaking discovery about Mars - and space enthusiasts believe that the agency may have proven the discovery of liquid water under the surface of the frigid planet.

During a media conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, the agency is to announce that a Mars mystery has been solved. Two of the scheduled speakers are Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and Lujendra Ojha, of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Both are pioneers in the study of liquid water on Mars, and have previously co-written papers on terrain features called recurring slope linae (RSL).

RSL are narrow streaks that appear annually on slopes in warmer regions of Mars. One theory points to free flowing water, which would have to be very saline to remain stable and not evaporate in Mars’ thin atmosphere, as the cause of those streaks.

“Based on the people who are speaking and what their backgrounds are ... it would seem to imply they have a discovery concerning these mysterious outflows that come from the cliffsides on Mars, which people have speculated for years could be liquid water and seemed to go against people’s perceptions about what is possible on Mars,” Doug McCuistion, former head of NASA’s Mars program, told the Boston Herald.

“If they do confirm this is water that’s seasonally flowing ... that would be an amazing discovery with dramatic implications.”

The presence of water on Mars in the form of ice caps has been known for years. However, if liquid water is proven to still exist on the Red Planet, it would have major ramifications for the study of Mars. It may mean that microbial life may still survive under the Martian surface, if there has ever been any.

“It implies that there is some sort of heat source keeping the water liquefied and here on Earth, whenever you have heat and water, 100 percent of the time you have life,” Carberry said. “We have no idea if that holds true on Mars, we don’t know if there is life on Mars or if there ever has been — but it would certainly be another piece of evidence.”

On a more practical note, existence of sub-Martian lakes and rivers would make planning a manned mission to Mars considerably simpler, as they would be a ready source of water and oxygen for explorers.