Water on Mars: What we know after NASA announcement

"Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.” That was the major announcement made Monday morning by NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has detected signs of hydrated minerals on steep slopes of the Red Planet, which flow during warm seasons and fade in colder seasons

Why it’s a big deal

The discovery of liquid water on Mars could be a game-changer in NASA's goal of sending a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s. While scientists have long known that there is frozen water on Mars, the presence of liquid water has remained a mystery.

"When most people talk about water on Mars, they're usually talking about ancient water or frozen water," said Georgia Tech researcher Lujendra Ojha, the lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 in the journal Nature Geoscience. "Now we know there’s more to the story.”

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water -- albeit briny -- is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

Future of life on Mars

“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”