NASA to Make Major Announcement Regarding Water on Mars

By Keith Cowing
June 21, 2000
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MarsNASA will make a major announcement tomorrow regarding the presence of liquid water on Mars. The results to be announced are expected to focus on visual evidence from the Mars Global Surveyor that water has been present on or near the surface of Mars. Moreover it would seem that this has happened quite recently and that it may well continue at present. No direct or indirect evidence of life has been found. Rather, this announcement will be limited to describing the identification of conditions on Mars that could be favorable to life, were it to exist.

Several days ago, word began to circulate around NASA and the planetary science community that NASA recently briefed the White House regarding a potential major discovery on Mars. Until yesterday, a “Space Science Update” by NASA’s Office of Space Science was supposed to have been held at NASA HQ on 29 June 2000. It was at this event that this discovery would have been announced. Due to the heavy publicity that this looming announcement has generated in just the past day or so, NASA and Science magazine have now moved this announcement up to 22 June 2000.

Specific rumors began to circulate about a pending announcement of some importance at a recent workshop on Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) results held in Boulder, Colorado. A paper was supposedly under preparation and review by members of the MGS Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team for submission to Science magazine. Informed sources within NASA suggested that the article may be concerned with water ice and the Valles Marineris region of Mars.

As this story began to spread, media enthusiasm ran at a healthy clip leading a number of journalists to post considerable speculation regarding the contents of this paper. Indeed, according to sources within the space science community, a number of stories that have appeared regarding Mars, the prevalence of water at/near the surface, and the prospects for life may have overshot the actual scope of the findings contained within this research paper.
Once again, evidence of conditions that would support life will be announced – not the discovery of life.

Based upon conversations with NASA space scientists, it seems almost certain that Dr. Baerbel K. Lucchita, a USGS scientist at Flagstaff, Arizona, is among members of the team preparing and reviewing the paper for publication in Science. Dr. Lucchitta has done extensive work on ice flows in Antarctica and on the mapping on Mars – especially Valles Marineris.

Suffice it to say that the 1996 announcement regarding possible fossil organisms within the ALH 84001 Mars meteorite gave us tantalizing evidence that life might have existed on Mars billions of years ago. This discovery gives us tantalizing evidence that the conditions supportive of life could exist today.

Other than that, the world will just have to wait until 10:00 AM EDT (14.00 GMT) on Thursday 22 June to find out what new discoveries Mars has decided to reveal to us.

Related Links

° NASA Press Conference Tomorrow To Discuss New Images Suggesting Present-Day Sources of Liquid Water on Mars, NASA HQ

° AAAS/Science Magazine Media Advisory – Mars Press Conference at NASA, AAAS

Background Information

° Science Magazine

° Malin Space Science Systems

° The Whole Mars Catalog

° Mars Missions, SpaceRef Directory

° The Planet Mars, SpaceRef Directory

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.