Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Martian flood zone 

Once upon a time anyway. NASA announced today that the rover Opportunity has found clear evidence that Meridiani Planum was once awash in liquid water.

"Opportunity has landed in an area of Mars where liquid water once drenched the surface," NASA associate administrator Ed Weiler told a news conference. "Moreover, this area would have been good habitable environment."
This is huge news--it validates all the work that has gone into every Mars mission leading up to the present one. NASA scored a very luck break when Opportunity bounced to a stop near that rock outcropping. Now... how about plans to go back with a rover designed not to look for water, but for signs of life?

UPDATE: It looks like it might be a while... Beagle 2 was supposed to look for chemical traces of life, but it went missing upon entry into the Martian atmosphere. And none of these future missions are going to look for life, but instead focus on looking for surface water and habitable environments, along with analyzing the geology and returning samples to earth.
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