Where water is present, life is possible. So what does that mean for Mars, where Nasa’s Curiosity rover has found evidence of liquid water on the surface?
In 2011, dark, narrow 100-meter long streaks were spotted aiming downhill on the surface of Mars. It was only a hypothesis that the streaks were once flowing water, but scientists confirmed that there were hydrated salts on the slopes.
Hydrated salts are salt molecules that are crystallized and bound to water molecules. The crystals trap water in their structures to become “hydrated,” which shows evidence of recent liquid water.
In warm, steep areas, water exists as a liquid, but evaporates when temperatures decline. The majority of Mars’ water is trapped in ice caps at the north and south poles.
The possibility of life on Mars is questionable, but so far no proof exists for scientists to confirm the idea. Scientists continue to look for fossils in dried areas where there might have once been water.
Billions of years ago, Mars contained ocean and rivers and even may have had microbial life. However, when water evaporated, the planet’s thin atmosphere allowed a large amount to escape into space, rather than fall back down. The planet remains bitterly cold and drier than any desert on Earth.
Despite any obstacles, a group of people based in the Netherlands are working to send the first people to Mars. The expedition is called Mars One, and their goal is to start a permanent colony on the red planet.
Departure of the crew is scheduled for year 2026, and until then immense preparation is under way. Astronauts on the planet construct their settlement in ways such as installing hardware and growing food. They will also research when the settlement is fully operational and transmitted to Earth.
Mars One has additionally begun discussion with the Committee of Space Research to protect the planet from contamination and determine how to prevent environmental harm.