Kinda goes against the senses – with temperatures on Mars varying from -125 to-60 degrees C (or 195 to -80 degrees F) one really doesn’t expect to locate water in liquid form and yet there it is. First located months ago it was in the news that there may be water streaming down the mountain side but while the readings from the spectrometer seemed to indicate that, there also was iron ore to both sides of it which is known to mess up the readings… So fast forward many months and what do we find? Liquid water on Mars.
Let’s go back a little bit. Mar’s atmosphere is much thinner than our own and so is unable to retain any of its heat energy. The mean temperature is -60C/-80F and at the poles as low as -125C/ -195F often with frost forming on the rocks at night. Interesting to note is the humidity levels are quite high when that frost melts in the morning until it all evaporates.
Mars does claim four seasons – though the length is a tad dissimilar to our own due to the tilt that the planet has as well as its eccentric orbit. In the northern hemisphere Spring reigns as the longest season – at seven months with Summer and Fall at six months and Winter is only four.
It has been postulated that water might exist below beneath the carbon dioxide ice sheets.
Now back to the present. Liquid water on Mars. Given the above data still seems odd, no? The water is not water in the ‘usual’ sense. Way back Mars has lakes of H2O and Oceans of Heavy Water that left Deuterium and today the water contains calcium percolate – a substance which has been found in the soil and is known to reduce the freezing point of water allowing it to exist in liquid form. Granted it is in a very salty for – known as brine. The water previously cascading down the slopes of Mount Sharp and sediment shows it collected in the crater below.
4.5 billion years ago Mars was like Earth in that it had a tremendous amount of water. It had six and a half times the water it currently does before events – such as the loss of its magnetic fields, led to degradation of the atmosphere due to energy rich particles from the Sun.
Regardless all this is exciting information on many levels – one of which is it helps to support ISRU. ISRU – In Situ Resource Utilization is an important part of anywhere we go in the Galaxy or Universe. One reason is obvious – we can’t send out for a pizza and so we must be able to depend on what is around us to survive. Locating water means we can separate it into Oxygen to breathe, water to drink, Hydrogen for propulsion…