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Monday, September 28, 2015

Is there life on Mars?

The Guardian reveals that Nasa is to reveal a “major science finding” from its Mars exploration mission, giving rise to rumours that the US space agency has found traces of liquid water on the red planet.

The paper says that the space agency has invited reporters to a press conference at 3.30pm UK time today, which will be attended by Lujendra Ojha, who discovered possible signs of water on Mars as an undergraduate student. And whilst it is keeping its cards close to its chest, they have promised a “Mars mystery solved”:

Nasa has found evidence of water on Mars in the past, mostly in frozen form at the poles but said it still considered Mars to be hostile to life.

In March, Nasa scientists said that the evidence supported the theory that an ocean once covered a fifth of Mars’ surface and was miles deep in places.

“If they are announcing that they have found easily accessible, freely flowing liquid water under the surface, which is one of the theories we have been hearing for years and years, that has massive implications both for the potential for life on that planet and sustainability of humans,” said Doug McCuistion, the former head of Nasa’s Mars programme.

He told the Boston Herald: “That would be highly enabling and might be the game-changing trigger for both finding life and hurrying up and getting people to Mars.

McCuistion said that one of the major challenges facing scientists was finding enough water and oxygen to support a human crew on Mars. “If it is already there and you don’t have to bring it, that could save you many, many metric tons of resupply as well as initial carrying capacity and landing mass … if you take water out of the equation that is going to lighten the load significantly.”

Rumours that the main party leaders have drawn up a shortlist of their colleagues to send on the first manned mission to Mars are of course untrue.
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