NASA rover proves water on Mars
By Dave Ward
NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has uncovered proof there
was once water, and therefore possible life, on the red planet.
Along with a source of energy, water is the key component
in the creation of life, explained Alain Bernstain, head of
the Mars science program for the Canadian Space Agency. “Finding
water in a liquid form, even in the history of Mars, is major
step,” he said, referencing the larger goal of searching
for possible life on Earth’s favourite neighbour.
Bernstain said scientists previously found evidence of markings
on the surface that suggested flash floods. New evidence, however,
shows chemicals and markings on rocks created by the presence
“The scientists that came forward have looked at all
possible explanations and they eliminated all the other explanations,” Bernstain
said when asked if there could have been other factors creating
the evidence Opportunity found.
He said the new evidence is significant because it proves
there was once water on Mars and also because it shows there
was water present for a longer period of time than just a flash
With water present for a significant period of time, Bernstain
said it would create an environment suitable for the development
of life to develop. “We have now discovered habitable
zones on Mars,” he remarked.
Phillip Stooke, a professor of physics and astronomy at Western
and an expert on space exploration, agreed this new evidence
is definitive proof of water existing on Mars. “With
the chemical evidence that we have, there is no way to avoid
it,” he said.
“[Scientists] will be very happy with this. All sorts
of hints were there before that were circumstantial; this evidence
really nails it down,” Stooke said.
Stooke also agreed that the water was present long enough
on Mars to support life. “[The water] had to be around
long enough to dissolve chemicals,” he said.
Bernstain said the next step is further exploration using
other rovers to look for actual signs of life on Mars. “[Opportunity]
does not have this kind of instrumentation.”
The next rover travelling to Mars in 2007 will land where
scientists think there is frozen water on the planet, Stooke
“It’s obviously exciting, [though] not entirely
unexpected,” said Cameron Tsujita, a professor of earth
sciences at Western, adding life on Mars is possible. “In
the past the ingredients have been there,” he said.
“I’m not interested in life on Mars. I think life
on Earth is much more important,” said C. Gordon Winter,
another professor of earth sciences at Western.
But Tsujita had a different view. “All of these missions
[to Mars] have been a benefit to our understanding of how our
own Earth works,” he said.