Several studies had previously suggested that Mars once had sufficient water on its surface. However, Mars is a barren land today, except for some ice deposits in the Red Planet's polar region. So, where did the rest of the water go?
New Study Sheds Light on Martian Water
Scientists had previously speculated that water that was once present on the Martian surface might have disappeared into space. According to scientists who believe in this theory, water molecules pummeled by particles of the solar wind broke apart into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and the lighter hydrogen atoms might have sped out of the atmosphere, reaching outer space.
However, a new study published in the journal Science suggests that most of the water on Mars is still there, but is locked up in rocks. The study report reveals that water locked up in Martian rock is trapped within minerals and salts. Researchers estimate that 99 percent of the water that once flowed across the Red Planet could be still there.
Martian Rocks Altered by Water
Bethany L. Ehlmann, a professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology and one of the authors of the paper, revealed that rocks are altered by liquid water, and water molecules became incorporated into minerals like clay.
"This is a very interesting new study in which many processes are combined to provide alternative scenarios for the fate of water on Mars. This opens the possibility for an even wetter past, and that rocks on Mars now hold more water than we initially thought," said NASA scientist Geronimo Villanueva, The New York Times reports.
In the meantime, NASA had landed its Perseverance Rover on Mars on February 18, 2021. The ultimate goal of the Perseverance Rover is to find signs of ancient alien life on the Red Planet. As the mission progresses steadily, several scientists believe that Perseverance Rover could shed light on ancient life on Mars.
Earlier, NASA chief scientist Jim Green had predicted that alien life, at least in its microbial form will be discovered on the Red Planet in 2021. However, he also made it clear that humanity is not ready to accept the realities surrounding alien existence.