NASA says that analysis of images from the Mars Global Surveyor suggest there may be current sources of liquid water at or near the surface of the planet. The images show features resembling gullies formed by flowing water and deposits of soil and rocks transported by the flows.


The new analysis confirms evidence of water in similar images taken by Mariner 9 in 1971. The images suggest the water is underground. It is already known that there is water ice in the Martian polar caps. Some of the gullies may be millions of years old, says NASA, adding that it cannot rule out that some of them could have been formed more recently.

Liquid water would boil on Mars because the planet's atmospheric pressure is 100 times less than Earth's. NASA suggests the gullies were formed when the water evaporated, cooling the ground, causing water behind the initial seepages to freeze, building up a pressure behind "ice dams" that broke, sending floods down the gullies.

The major implication of the finding is that, if proven, it could mean that future Mars explorers would have substantial resources to support expeditions. A new NASA Mars orbiter, to be launched in 2001, will examine the seepage sites in more detail.

Source: Flight International