More evidence of flowing water on Mars!

By Phil Plait | August 4, 2011 1:02 pm

For the past few years, tantalizing evidence has been found that Mars — thought to be long dead, dry, and lifeless — may have pockets of water just beneath the surface. To be clear, we know there’s water on Mars, in the form of ice. We see ice in the polar caps, and we’ve seen it revealed under the surface by small meteorite impacts.

The question is, is there liquid water?

New images by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter bring us a step closer to answering that question. A series of pictures of the 300 km (180 mile) wide Newton crater taken over the course of several years show dark deposits on the crater wall which change predictably with the seasons, clearly affiliated with some sort of material flowing downslope:

[Click to barsoomenate.]

The picture above shows Newton’s crater wall. It’s pretty steep, with about a 35° slope, and the dark deposits are labeled. This crater is located in the southern mid-latitudes of Mars, and this part of the crater faces north. That’s critical! Since it faces toward the equator, that means it’s facing the Sun in the summer, and so these deposits appear when the temperatures get warm.

NASA has created several animated gifs (too big to embed here) that show the growth and retreat of these features over time. You can easily see how these dark features change.

In the past, similar things have been seen in gullies on Mars. It’s not clear those are from water, since frozen carbon dioxide can also be thawing out and forming them. In those cases, the flows were seen on the cold-facing sides of crater walls, making it less likely they’re from water. These new formations are on the warm-facing side, making it more likely they are from water.

So what’s going on? It’s not precisely clear. MRO cannot confirm that these flows are from water. What we need (barring direct samples from the ground there!) are spectra — that is, breaking the light up into separate colors, allowing the composition of the material to be determined. It’s like taking a fingerprint or a DNA sample, except with light. Unfortunately the spectroscope on board MRO isn’t capable of seeing these flows well enough to tell us what they’re made of.

But the evidence is compelling. The idea that previously seen flows are CO2 cannot be discounted, but having these new flows associated with warmer temperatures is a big step in the direction of water. If it is H20, it may be salty, and not pure — there’s pretty conclusive evidence that salty water existed on Mars ages ago, and there are lots of salts left on the surface today. That’s actually interesting: salty water freezes at a lower temperature, so can be liquid in colder environments.

If this is water — and really, no matter what it is — questions remain: why are these only in mid-latitudes, and not nearer the equator? Are the dark deposits actual mineral deposits, or transient water-stains (like towels and dirt getting darker when wet)? Is this material that’s flowing liquid or solid deeper underground? How big are the reservoirs of this material underground?

And of course, The Big Questions: do these features support life? Could the Red Planet only be mostly dead?

These new observations do not answer that, but again they’re taking us in the right direction. In November 2011 NASA will launch the Mars Science Lab, aka Curiosity, a golf-cart sized rover that will roam the surface with the specific goal of looking into whether Mars is capable of hosting extant life. It won’t be anywhere near Newton crater (and the walls are too steep for a rover anyway), but if Mars is still hospitable — for microbes, that is, if not us — Curiosity has a really good shot at letting us know.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona


Related posts:

New evidence of transient liquid water on Mars
Are Martian gullies formed by water or not?
Is NASA hiding life on Mars? I seriously doubt it.
Liquid water on Mars? Maybe not. (about an older finding of possible water on Mars)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Top Post

Comments (80)

  1. Gonçalo Aguiar

    Good place to send Curiosity.

  2. So how long till a bottled water company starts selling “Mars Water” mineral water seltzer (with CO2 in it)?

  3. UmTutSut

    The results may not be conclusive, but they sure set MY mind racing!

    Could the dark outflows represent actual organisms themselves, e.g., a feeding frenzy on the briny water?

    Any correlation between these findings and Viking/Opportunity/Spirit/Phoenix findings?

    Relationship, if any, to the briny geysers on Enceladus?

    Heck, I’m not even a scientist; imagine what *they* must be thinking of!

  4. bouch

    what we’ve seen speaks for itself. Those tracks show that Mars has been taken over — ‘conquered’, if you will — by a master race of giant space ants. It’s difficult to tell from this vantage point whether they will consume any earth men they encounter or merely enslave them. One thing is for certain, there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

  5. Donnageddon

    Perfect spot for Martian Sea Monkeys!

    … also known as brine shrimp.

  6. Regner Trampedach

    Richard @ 2: You mean “Waters of Mars”?… Run for your lives!
    Cheers, Regner

  7. I can imagine Dr. Sagan cautioning us. In light of these extraordinary claims, we need extraordinary evidence. Suggestive, yes, but we must proceed with the upmost caution and skepticism in order to establish the facts. I commend you Dr. Plait for proceeding with this caution. I am, however, very skeptical for Curiosity finding anything of this sort of interest. It isn’t where the action is. So we must either send a probe designed for this location or send humans.

  8. Lars Karlsson

    Does anyone know why when NASA/ESA take the effort to develop new advanced satellites / rovers etc they only make one? It must make more economic sense to make a couple of identical ones and send them to different parts of mars? Or is the operative cost the main cost of these things?

  9. Kappy

    @Donnageddon I’d take brine bacteria even!

  10. Dave M

    Are these images taken looking down or are they mapped to a 3D model and viewed from an angle? The edges of the image are kind of lumpy suggesting that it’s not straight down. Oh, duh… I just checked the link and it is 3D mapped.

  11. Skip Huffman

    Lars, Most of the cost is the delivery. Probably upwards of $20,000 per kilo for a soft landing on Mars.

    And sometimes they do make a couple. Spirit and Opportunity. Viking 1 and 2.

    Now if Space-X can get a Red Dragon contract we could see a variety of rovers delivered at one time.

    But you probably aren’t going to get anything to land on or even climb up a 35 degree slope.

  12. Legion

    That shot was taken from orbit? I know the crater is 180 mi wide but how much are we seeing in the photo?
    That’s pretty impressive resolution.
    It would be nice if we knew for sure if water caused those furrows – sand alone can produce the same exact features.
    Also, you give us the option to “barsoomenate” the photo. Don’t you mean “embiggen”?

  13. Rob

    And ‘mostly dead’ means ‘slightly alive’!

  14. tphtwpe

    @4 Bouch: I’m sure you know you’d also like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, you can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

  15. HaroldD

    The dark “flows” are very interesting, but what is the material above them that appears white and looks like snow on the rocks and outcroppings? Perhaps a runaway imagination.

  16. Michael Ralston

    Lars: The most significant cost is the cost to get the rover from here to Mars. Rockets are *expensive*, and each additional bit of weight you send up increases the cost by a LOT.

    So no, making multiple copies of a rover wouldn’t be very economically helpful, especially since you’re never gonna produce enough to get significant economies of scale on the production.

  17. andy

    Could the Red Planet only be mostly dead?

    Clearly we need to take into account the zombie possibility…

  18. Whatwords

    Love the Barsoom reference.

  19. A?

    @#8 Lars Karlsson. It’s been done. They are called Spirit and Opportunity.

  20. kasmol

    Salty water? Brine? There can only be one answer. Sea Monkeys rule Mars!

  21. Andrew W

    I thought the green tinge to the ground below the streaks looked interesting.

  22. Michael Simmons

    My thoughts

    90% chance – Its just an effect of the differing angles of the sun.
    9% chance – Its landslides caused by soil warming up. The newly exposed material is then slowly reacting with the atmosphere or sunlight and changing colour.
    0.9% chance – Its a CO2 solution of some kind Salty CO2?
    0.1% chance – what they say it is.

  23. Kurt Erlenbach

    Heath (#7) – I remember Prof Sagan in Astronomy 102 (Spring 1975) saying that, since there were no lights on the Viking Mars lander, his worst fear was that it would photograph footprints which were erased by the wind, and which reappeared when the sun rose the next day. Or that there would be a plant growing just outside the reach of the arm. He also said that now was the most exciting time in all of human history to be alive, because it was this generation that would learn whether we are alone in the universe. A more exciting class one could never have.

  24. Daffy

    Interesting numbers, Michael. I rate a 99% probability that you just made them up.
    ;-)

  25. Naomi

    Damn, HiRISE is cool. The semester I spent at UA was the best semester I’ve done in my entire academic career. We got to see HiRISE mission control in person!

    A hypothesis for why they’re found at mid latitudes: there are rather a lot of ice features at those latitudes – when Mars’ axial tilt shifts, the ice tends to migrate towards there. If it’s just barely subsurface, then heating melts the ice enough to form these streaks. That’s why there’s none in equatorial regions – the ice never made it down that far.

    Legion @ 13, HiRISE has a resolution of about thirty centimetres (about a foot) to a pixel. It’s strong enough to be able to spot the rovers, landers, and their tracks, for instance. It’s pretty high-res!

    Kurt @ 25… lucky. So, so lucky.

  26. Freerefill

    I don’t know… I’ll be the first one to squeal like a schoolgirl when they have absolute proof of liquid water on Mars, but until they have it, I must remain skeptical.

    This doesn’t look like liquid briny water, this looks like wind-blown sand. We know that there are dust storms on Mars, and we know that gas behaves like a liquid. Why can’t wind blow dust and dirt along the surface, channel it into specific gullies, where the velocity naturally picks up, and then disturbs the existing sand or lays down new sand, thus changing its color? Granted if there’s a good reason why it can’t be wind-blown sand, I’ll shut my yap, but until then, we know there’s sand and we know there’s wind. If wind-blown sand can do that, then I’d think, in my own little, uninformed way, that it would be a better explanation than briny water.

  27. The more I look, the more I doubt water/brine is the cause.

    Are there seasonal changes in wind direction? Upslope verses downslope winds would change the sediment source (note that the dark material comes from higher up the slope than the obvious streaks). Eolean transport is very effective at sorting clasts according to size and density – and color.

    Need to get my eyes on some stereo photo pairs, are the streaks perpendicular to the slope contours? That’s the key.

  28. josie

    Didn’t they publish a similar picture a while back? It was so pretty on first glance –it looked like beach grass blowing in the wind..but it was mini landslides on Mars.

    I have to think that’s what this is until we have more evidence. I volunteer to go check it out :)

  29. VinceRN

    Fascinating, I had always thought liquid water was impossible on the surface of Mars due to the low pressure, but some quick research shows it is just possible during the summer at lower altitudes. I looked up the relevant stuff I could find and it looks to me like the pressure here could just be high enough to allow liquid water in a small range of a few degrees Celsius, that could be achieved on the north facing slope during the summer.

    Liquid water on Mars, and the likelihood of life it would suggest would be the coolest discovery in all of human history.

    Still, as others have pointed out there are other, possibly more likely explanations. I too will remain skeptical, but at least hopeful.

    Also, love the Burroughs reference. If the first Mars base doesn’t take it’s name from his works there is no justice in the world.

  30. Bill

    In the Spirit(!) of the Princess Bride ‘mostly dead’ reference, I’ll take the Opportunity(!!) to say “Bye, bye, Curiosity! Have fun storming the planet!”

    Punnery and nerd movie references aside, this is an incredibly exciting finding. I can’t wait to see what comes next. This certainly isn’t the cold, dead, Mars of my childhood science fiction!

  31. Anchor

    Mars sweats! (Or sheds tears).

    Salty, briny, mineral-laden stuff too…

    Presence of favored liquid solvent now almost certainly confirmed…

    Man, how cool can it possibly get?

    WHAT NEXT?

    Re: VinceRN#31, “Still, as others have pointed out there are other, possibly more likely explanations. I too will remain skeptical, but at least hopeful.”

    But the most likely explanation for these features and their behavior and timing IS liquid water. It is far more difficult to account for these features without invoking water. For example, no, the favorite runner-up scenario involving dust just doesn’t cut it. Dust doesn’t behave like that. A LIQUID slurry does very much explain them. Water is now the simplest explanation.

  32. Robin

    Fortunately the researchers involved have access to more data than what’s seen in this single picture. It’ll be exciting to see what further study shows and to read papers that are submitted from that research.

    While lab studies may/will help to rule out other possibilities and support the current stated hypothesis, it seems more data with better resolution in that data will be needed. I’ll bet someone–hopefully a team of someones–started thinking, right after today’s conference, that a spectrometer with an über narrow field of view and high spatial resolution is needed on the next gen orbiter or rover that they’re designing. “Bob, scrap that spectrometer. Instead, we’ll need one that goes up to 11.”

  33. anon

    Too bad we are led by a bunch of unimaginative cretins. Otherwise we might fly one or three high risk faster, better, cheaper missions to this region.

    Land a Spirit clone into the center of the crater, have it drive to most opportune place to observe.

    Land a Spirit clone into the center of the crater, stick a parrot drone onto it.

    Can’t land a rover on the cliff wall? Create a smaller hybrid of the curiosity hover lander and lower or “shoot” various ground sensors into the region.

    Anyway, here’s to the lip service to science and engineering from our gutless unimaginative “Democratic” President and his crony capitalist brethren.

  34. Joseph G

    My first question would be whether anyone has taken the albedo and angle of the surface and figured out what kind of temperature range we’re talking about, here. That might very quickly rule out water (or not).

    @28 freerefill: It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Occam’s Razor lying around in situations like this.

    @4 bouch: +1 internets.

  35. Taking the Stairs . .

    Hmm. I’m erring on the side of asking which way the seasonal winds blow, and wondering whether that might account for seasonal changes in the appearance of streaks of darker material blown into and down the gullies from the more exposed high ground above. Not that I don’t want there to be liquid water on Mars, just that that it doesn’t seem to be the most likely explanation here.

  36. Nigel Depledge

    The BA said:

    If this is water — and really, no matter what it is — questions remain: why are these only in mid-latitudes, and not nearer the equator?

    Well, this is off the cuff, but with an atmospheric pressure of only 7 mbar, wouldn’t the range of temperatures over which water can exist as a liquid be very narrow? And hence at the warmer temperatures found at the equator, would not the water rapidly evaporate?

  37. Nigel Depledge

    Lars Karlsson (8) said:

    Does anyone know why when NASA/ESA take the effort to develop new advanced satellites / rovers etc they only make one? It must make more economic sense to make a couple of identical ones and send them to different parts of mars? Or is the operative cost the main cost of these things?

    Well, I don’t really know, but a few ideas come to mind.

    First, it could simply be budget constraints. Two launches will be twice the cost of a single launch.

    Second, it could be a desire to not put too much money into untried technology (yes, of course there’s plenty of testing before the probes are launched, but our simulations are never a perfect substitute for the real conditions in space or on Mars). If one probe fails for some unforeseen reason, then you have at least learnt something that you can apply to the next project, but if you launch two probes and they both fail for the same reason, that would be doubly disappointing, and you’ve still learned only the same stuff you would have got from one probe.

    Third, well it has happened at least 3 times: Spirit and Opportunity; Vikings 1 and 2; Voyagers 1 and 2. IIUC, for each of these examples, the second probes were all launched before it was known whether or not the first of the two probes had succeeded.

  38. Messier Tidy Upper

    D’oh! Real Life keeps me offline for a day and this news breaks. Typical!

    Just saw a good report on the TV news about this too. Still so many uncertainties – and I think it pays to be cautious and not too premature here – but these do seem to be intriguing indications of possible water or at least brine seeping onto the russet sands.

  39. @1. Gonçalo Aguiar : “Good place to send Curiosity.”

    They’ve already selected the landing site for the Curiousity rover and it isn’t this (Newton) crater. (Click on my name here for it’s wikipage.) Wonder if it’s now too late to change that and re-direct the landing for Newton though?

    Curiously enough though, both Newton and Gale craters are located in the same region of Mars – Terra Sirenum :

    .. an upland area notable for massive cratering including the large Newton Crater. Terra Sirenum is in the Phaethontis quadrangle of Mars. A low area in Terra Sirenum is believed to have once held a lake that eventually drained through Ma’adim Vallis.

    Source : Wikipedia – Terra Sirenum page accessed well now. (5th Aug.2011)

    Not quite sure how close the two craters – Gale & Newton – are or whether the Curiosity rover will be capable of travelling between them. Perhaps similar features will be found at Gale?

  40. Messier Tidy Upper

    @8. Lars Karlsson :

    Does anyone know why when NASA/ESA take the effort to develop new advanced satellites / rovers etc they only make one? It must make more economic sense to make a couple of identical ones and send them to different parts of mars? Or is the operative cost the main cost of these things?

    Like, *ahem*, Spirit and Opportunity or Viking I and Viking II you mean? ;-)

    As (#39) Nigel Depledge has pointed out too.

    Yeah, that “twin craft” is one common strategy for interplanetary exploration and a good one that gets used frequently.

    I’m not sure but I think the Curiosity rover (formerly known Mars Science Laboratory) is a lot more costly and advanced and they possibly can’t afford two. So they’re putting all their eggs, all the focus and all the risks in the one basket here as opposed to the earlier Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) which were divided into the twin craft idea.

    This may have something to do with different NASA directors and their philosophies – the earlier “cheaper, faster, better” versus the big one off specials. Each approach has its pros and cons.

    The one-off specials like Phoenix can work wonderfully well or they can end in disaster without back-up as happened to the Mars Observer in the mid-1990’s which was just about to orbit the red planet when it was lost. I must admit I’d love it if there were two Curiousity type MERs and the chances that at least one would arrive safely was improved. Still, it’s always possible to lose two or more rovers too. Mars has a bit of a bad reputation as a difficult place for spaceprobe missions. :-S

    I just really desperately hope that the one craft only shots like this – and the Juno mission due for launching to Jupiter very soon also – launch and fly and, in Curiousity’s case, land smoothly and successfully with as few problems as possible. So much rides on them.

    *****

    “Earth will benefit in the end, [from space exploration] and not just because there’s a new world to go to, but because of what we’ll learn.”
    – Page 237, ‘Venus of Dreams’, Pamela Sargent, Bantam, 1986.

  41. Nigel Depledge

    Anon (35) said:

    Too bad we are led by a bunch of unimaginative cretins. Otherwise we might fly one or three high risk faster, better, cheaper missions to this region.

    Land a Spirit clone into the center of the crater, have it drive to most opportune place to observe.

    Land a Spirit clone into the center of the crater, stick a parrot drone onto it.

    Can’t land a rover on the cliff wall? Create a smaller hybrid of the curiosity hover lander and lower or “shoot” various ground sensors into the region.

    Anyway, here’s to the lip service to science and engineering from our gutless unimaginative “Democratic” President and his crony capitalist brethren.

    Well, not only is your tone outrageously offensive, but you are contradicting yourself.

    The probes we currently have operating on and around Mars are all from the “expensive and carefully designed, built and tested” school, not the “faster, cheaper, better except, Oh we missed Mars” school. A Spirit clone would not be fast to build or cheap.

    True, it would be faster than designing one from scratch, but you’d probably want to redesign the instruments because the tech on Spirit is probably about 10 years old (and, no, I don’t mean it’s been built for 10 years, I mean it was designed about that length of time ago). Spirit was no longer cutting edge technology by the time it was launched, never mind now.

    As for a hovering lander – again, you need to spend time and money to get it right, especially if you’re going to send three of them.

    You seem to have misinterpreted realism as a lack of imagination, but actually you have to be pretty imaginitive to get a successful landing on Mars – otherwise, your FMEA is bound to be inadequate.

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    Links for further reading for folks if they’re interested – see :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Observer

    for the wiki-basics on the lost Mars Observer mission. Remember the poor ole’ Beagle too. :-(

    See :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terra_Sirenum

    for more about the Terra Sirenum region again via wikipedia.

    Plus see :

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html

    for the latest (so far) news on the Juno mission due to launch in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 15 seconds time from now.

    Hope these are helpful, enjoyable, interesting for y’all. :-)

  43. Off-topic, sorry – quick reminder to all here that the Juno mission to Jupiter is scheduled for launch in a few hours time from writing this.

    T minus three hours, twenty-three minutes and five seconds to be exact.

    The countdown is moving ahead this morning toward a liftoff at 11:34 a.m. EDT to begin the Juno mission to Jupiter. …[snip]… The weather forecast is positive this morning and there are no indications of technical issues.

    Source: countdown clock for the Juno website @ NASA.

    Click on my name here (to avoid moderation delay) for a link to more info.

    Wishing the Juno team all the best and will be watching live on NASA-TV as usual.

  44. “The picture above shows Newton’s crater wall.”

    AIUI, this is a crater wall within Newton crater but it’s not Newton’s crater wall; it’s the wall of a smaller crater within Newton.

    Checking the lat/long given for that picture on Google Mars seems to confirm it but I haven’t checked whether that could just be the effect of only giving one digit of degrees. Newton crater is about 300 km in diameter which would be a couple of degrees of latitude and a bit more of longitude so I doubt it.

  45. Michael, Daffy, just remember that 63.9% of all statistics are made up on the stop.

    Bill:

    In the Spirit(!) of the Princess Bride ‘mostly dead’ reference, I’ll take the Opportunity(!!) to say “Bye, bye, Curiosity! Have fun storming the planet!”

    +2

    And, one final note from me… Here’s to hoping there aren’t any Martian felines near Curiosity’s landing site.

  46. SkyGazer

    @2. Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum Says:
    August 4th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    So how long till a bottled water company starts selling “Mars Water” mineral water seltzer (with CO2 in it)?

    But, and that´s the trick, without bubbles.

  47. @ ^ SkyGazer : Hmmm .. To make such “Mars Water” *really* authentic wouldn’t they need it to be briney and full of salts!? ;-)

    PS. Juno launch~wise : Ten minute hold at T minus four minutes & counting presently.

  48. chris j.

    Richard @2: the onion is way ahead of you; google “coke rovers find evidence of dasani on mars.”

    Michael @24: i think you’ve nailed the hype.

    from the picture and nasa’s animated gif, i get the strong sense that these are “flows” of fine silt or dust, and that there is no liquid – or for that matter, any – water involved. it is entirely plausible that the canyons capture fine dust and, because there is less light in the canyons during winter, temperatures in the shadows may drop low enough to form a mixture of dust and CO2 frost. when spring/summer comes and the CO2 sublimes, the dust is loosened and can flow downhill. it is also plausible to replace the CO2 ice with water ice in this scenario, but the existence of subsurface water ice is not new.

    another good question is exactly how fast these features are “flowing.” from the gif, it looks like they spread over the course of several 30-sol intervals (i find it hard to label any period of time on mars a “month”). a slow, steady progression suggests geologic or atmospheric forces at work, not a liquid. it is possible that every morning some water ice heats up enough to flow, extending it a little each sol, but that implies a steady source of daily water.

  49. Peter Davey

    With regard to the possibility of life on Mars, I wonder if anyone else has come across the novel “No Man Friday”, by the science-fiction writer, Rex Gordon? I believe that Disney used it – rather badly – as the basis for “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”.

    It portrays a crashed astronaut, trying to survive on a Mars that is somewhere between the version with the canals, and the modern “dehydrated” version, desperately trying to use his surviving technology to extract air, food, and water, from an inhospitable environment, where every creature is the end product of the planet’s slow decay, surviving where other species have died out.

    In one scene, our friend takes a taste of Martian “honey”, and then immediately tips the rest of the sample out of the airlock, because he knew that, if he had taken a second taste, he would have sat there smiling and uncaring, whilst his pressurised cabin slowly wore away around him.

    One advantage in using robot explorers, at least.

  50. anon

    @45, I am sorry you found my tone outrageous Nigel, I just have no idea why you find my tone outrageous Nigel.

  51. Chris Winter

    I never heard of that novel. (Nothing novel about my lack of knowledge of it…) ;-)

    Wikipedia has a decent writeup. It sounds like an interesting read, with some interesting twists. (Another story with interesting twists is Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey”.)

    I wonder how Rex Gordon has his crashed astronaut survive the “Dominant Ones,” since they eat the human-like species of their planet.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Man_Friday

  52. SkyGazer

    Juno Headed to Jupiter!

    An Atlas V rocket lofted the Juno spacecraft toward Jupiter from Space Launch Complex-41. The 4-ton Juno spacecraft will take five years to reach Jupiter on a mission to study its structure and decipher its history. Liftoff occurred at 12:25 p.m. EDT.

    JPL manages the Juno mission for principal investigator Scott Bolton. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    According to: wuh wuh wuh nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/launch/index.html

  53. Chris Winter

    Awesome picture! Imagine trying to climb down that craggy, crumbly wall in a spacesuit. Imagine your lifeline breaking. (No thanks…)

  54. Robin

    Unimaginative cretins? Have a look at MSL (Curiosity). I’d wager to say that machine is the result of loads of creativity. It’s got an impressive suite of instruments. Unfortunately, even if it could be retargeted (which is certainly not a given and is likely not even possible given the amount of energy required to get the thing to its destination), it cannot access the slopes on which the possible water flow has been seen.

    With successive missions improving on the science done on previous missions, there’s hardly any point in going backwards to previous generations’ probes.

  55. Robin:

    With successive missions improving on the science done on previous missions, there’s hardly any point in going backwards to previous generations’ probes.

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by “going backwards”. Consider Apollo 12:

    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_12/experiments/surveyor/

  56. anon

    Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

    “59. Robin Says:
    August 5th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
    Unimaginative cretins? Have a look at MSL (Curiosity). I’d wager to say that machine is the result of loads of creativity. ”

    And what I said was:

    “Too bad we are led by a bunch of unimaginative cretins. Otherwise we might fly one or three high risk faster, better, cheaper missions to this region.

    Anyway, here’s to the lip service to science and engineering from our gutless unimaginative “Democratic” President and his crony capitalist brethren.”

    understand, or is it too tough for you?

    Regarding whether we go forward and are scared to back, no one is suggesting going back. I am suggesting using successful designs and successful ideas and getting a lander in the crater in 12 months, not in 10 years.

    But I can understand that for a bunch of low iq hobgoblins who find the good the enemy of the perfect that getting a massively overpriced superlander on mars by 2050 to study this might be the more appropriate approach.

    The rest of us just was some science done.

  57. Robin

    @Ken B (#60):

    I don’t see the relevance to current missions and objectives that Surveyor and Apollo 12 bear. Certainly we are not at a point yet where we can return samples from the surface of Mars.

    By “going backwards” I mean sending up probes that are identical to what’s already sent doesn’t really gain anything. Likewise, there are no real “faster, better, cheaper” missions. No one is going to send, for instance, a probe with a single sensor for a single purpose (an extreme example). The cost savings are minimal, and the return for the investment will be minimal. I understand these comments go beyond your response, and their really directed toward other comments made.

    In general, it’s patently wrong to blame any single politician for the current state of NASA. The state of NASA is the result of contributions from Congress, lobbyists, and presidents since NASA’s inception. Anyone claiming otherwise is just offering political propaganda. The public is also to blame, since it is us, the electorate that put those people in DC in office. It is also the public that displays very little interest in things related to space travel and has offered so little support for NASA endeavors.

    People who are really interested in getting science done are the people who, hopefully, the least likely resort to spewing invective and flaming.

  58. Chris Winter

    Given the similarity of the pictures, I couldn’t resist posting this.

    Evidence of flowing water on Earth:

    http://climatide.wgbh.org/2011/08/50-years-of-change-in-cape-cod-national-seashore/
    50 years of change in Cape Cod National Seashore
    by Heather Goldstone — 5 August 2011

    And… flowing grape juice? ;-)

    No, from the photo I’m sure it’s black carbon from the grass fire that took place on the level some time before.

  59. Just remember not to touch any of the water. Not. One. Drop.

  60. Daffy

    “But I can understand that for a bunch of low iq hobgoblins who find the good the enemy of the perfect that getting a massively overpriced superlander on mars by 2050 to study this might be the more appropriate approach.”

    Your questions was about IQs dropping?

    (If English is not your first language, you are merely rude rather than semi-literate.)

  61. mike burkhart

    Take me to your leader Earthling!!!! I think this might restart the debate on weather thers life on Mars,life on Earth started in the water so there may be life forms in the water on Mars not fish but probally microbes.#33 Dune(Arrakis) is so dry that people living there (Fremen) have to ware stillsuits to preserve body mosture ,The sandworms make the spice and die if exposed to water ,of corse in the fourth novel:God empore of Dune the planet became Green.

  62. Nick L

    Skip Huffman Said: “But you probably aren’t going to get anything to land on or even climb up a 35 degree slope.”

    You don’t climb up a 35 degree slope; you design a rover that can rappel down one. NASA has been toying with the idea of a two segment rover with one segment acting as the anchor with the other being winched down to investigate steep slopes. Hopefully now with a tempting target, they may try to build one.

  63. Surface water seems encouraging since it would seem to be an indication of a subsurface water table in the area. High salinity is not so good but still is a possible harbinger of subsurface life :)

  64. icemith

    As this is the fourth attempt to post a comment, (don’t ask, but interruptions, and closing page before at least saving, could be factors), and I would have been #20, but as yet, have to read from there to now, in case someone else has suggested it, I have an idea that may be a solution to the problem as mentioned, or implied, back in #12 by Skip Huffman.

    What the “Rover” needs is a winch system that is anchored by widely positioned stakes at the top of the slope, and being able to traverse along that cable between them, as it is let out from the vehicle. This would enable the sensors or other sampling tools to cover a larger spread of the slope, not just below the anchor point only, (that is, if only one stake was used), but be able to “crab” sideways at different distances from the top.

    Monitoring equipment could be left there, and if the anticipated moisture is seasonal, then collected and analysed and the results transmitted. If it is water, maybe visual monitoring of actual flows down the slope, instead of just the darkening of the soak, would be a bonus.

    Anyway, I suggest this for what it is worth.

    Ivan.

  65. Nigel Depledge

    Anon (61) said:

    Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

    So, which part of “outrageously offensive” did you not understand?

  66. Michael McCutcheon

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited about this, but why in the official caption for this image
    http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA14479
    do they have to say:
    “a view of a slope as it would be seen from a helicopter inside the crater”.
    I appreciate they’re making it accessible, but why not just “as it would be seen from inside the crater” or “as it would be seen if you were hovering inside the crater”. Maybe I’m nit-picking, but it’s the stuff of which mis-conceptions are made of. Can helicopters even work in Mars’ thin atmosphere? Why not the view from a zeppelin or a rocket pack or a magic carpet?

    Anyway, I’ll not let it (ahem) dampen my enthusiasm.

  67. icemith

    Somebody has got a hang-up? :)

    PS, I make those observations too……

    Ivan.

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