An Illustrated History of Water on Mars. Graphic from Wikipedia

How NASA inconvenienced the plot of The Martian with their new discovery

For a long time, Mars was thought to be a big, red, dusty wasteland floating through outer space. Our previous explorations of the planet have revealed pictures that depicted it as just that, a wasteland. Mars has only been known to have two poles, much like ours, which are covered in ice. However, there seemed to be no sign of liquid water– until now.

NASA announced  in a press conference on Monday that they have discovered what appears to be flowing, liquid water on the planet. It’s been thought that mars could have had oceans and lakes ions ago, but scientists thought that the planet may be too cold to have liquid water on it now.

An Illustrated History of Water on Mars. Graphic from Wikipedia
Proof of water on Mars throws a wrench in the plot of “The Martian”. Graphic from Wikipedia

Five years ago, NASA scientists noticed some dark streaks that appeared during the warmer months, and disappeared in colder months. Scientists have been observing these streaks since, but assumed the streaks could be dust or small landslides. Studying the different kinds of minerals and elements on the planet, scientists realized something had to have been moistening these minerals in order for them to flow the way they have been.

“The amount of water could be huge: the scientists estimated that one dark line contains, at a minimum, enough water to fill 40 of the enormous swimming pools used for international competitions,” according to USA Today.

The issue with this liquid is that the dust on mars absorbs it so quickly, it’s more of a sludgy landslide than a flowing river as many people are misunderstanding. The water is also thought to be many times more salty than our own oceans water.

Scientists remain optimistic about the discovery, however.  “Water is the elixir of life,”  Mars expert Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis told USA Today. In other words, this discovery is a huge step towards discovering some kind of life on Mars. This also means that there’s a great possibility that humans could populate Mars, in the very distant future. Although it may be decades or even centuries before we colonize Mars, the possibility is much greater than it was before this discovery.

This discovery comes at an inconvenient time, as Hollywood is preparing to premiere a Mars-based movie featuring Matt Damon.

The Martian, which is based on a book by Andy Weir, is about an astronaut, Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars. Watney is left to his own devices to find a way to grow his own food until he can be rescued. NASA’s discovery of water on Mars sort of spoils the plot of the movie, because Mars is supposed to be a dry, arid wasteland.

Weir seemed pretty optimistic about the discovery, telling Wired Magazine that the setting of Watney’s base camp is nowhere near where water has been detected on Mars. Jim Green, NASA’s head of planetary science also told Wired that despite the new discovery, he suggests that his scientific friends, “check the science at the door. Go on in and enjoy the movie.”