8 Times Water Has Been Discovered On Mars

Me being so frustrated with media outlets re-asserting over and over that water being found on Mars is a new revelation lead me to write this piece for Cracked back in Sept. Many years ago I remember thinking “haven’t I read out this before? Huh, maybe I dreamed it…” and a few years “didn’t we already know about water on Mars? I really thought we did”. Last year I thought it was cool that water had spilled out of the rock on the rover, and I appreciate space discoveries being reported out to the public by the largest news broadcasters. But when they hype it like it’s the holy-grail discovery we’ve been waiting decades for even though we already made that holy-grail discovery, that’s when I get snarky.

This wasn’t published by Cracked because the response I got was “I really like this as a single entry on a larger list about “revolutionary” discoveries that keep happening, or something to that effect. See what else you can dig up!”, and I while I have complied a list of other “revolutionary discoveries that keep being rediscovered” I haven’t been able to make the time to write up a whole article. Now it’s the end of the year and I feel like I missed my chance. Oh well, I’m at least putting it on my own blog for myself.


Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:17 am

It continues to amaze us how each time water is “discovered” on Mars it’s been such a big revelation. As if somehow the previous discoveries are suddenly not valid. Oops! Our bad! That wasn’t actually water last time. (Okay, once it wasn’t.) But NOW it is really really REAL water! And each time the reaction from media, whether traditional or social, is to celebrate like it’s 1999.

Well guess what, if you haven’t already, September of 2015 was not the first big reveal of water on Mars. It’s all been done before:

1) 1975
Let’s just skip the Mariner 9 pictures of Mars from 1971 that showed dried up riverbeds. That’s not water NOW, that’s water in the way past. Much more importantly, soil samples analyzed by the Viking landers on Mars in 1975 revealed water! PARTY TIME!

Except, not. That information was later deemed “inconclusive”.


“When Mariner 9 became the first craft to orbit another planet in 1971, the photographs it returned of dry river beds and canyons seemed to indicate that water had once existed on the Martian surface.”

“Data from the Viking landers pointed to the presence of water beneath the surface, but the experiments were deemed inconclusive.

http://www.space.com/12404-mars-explore … -1971.html

“Viking 1, Viking 2, transmitted photos of Mars surface and analysis of soil samples”

2) May 2002
“Found It!” NASA declares. The Mars Odyssey spacecraft turned up water in the form of ice, lying under the surface of Mars. PARTY TIME!

But for life to exist – whether it be life evolved on Mars or humans moving in to our next door planet – water has to be in liquid form, and accessible. We’re talking liquid and on the surface. Not to diminish this ice discovery, but, you know…

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/sc … y_marsice/

“surprised scientists have found enormous quantities of buried treasure lying just under the surface of Mars — enough water ice to fill Lake Michigan twice over.”

“”This is really amazing,” says William Boynton of the University of Arizona. “This is the best direct evidence we have of subsurface water ice on Mars.””

3) November, 2006
Jackpot! Liquid, flowing, on the surface, it’s the big 3! PARTY TIME!

Oh wait… uhhh… turns out no. Not evidence of flowing water, what was found was evidence of subliming carbon dioxide. Psyche! That’s okay, 2008 is only 2 years away.


“The observations suggest that liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars during the past decade.”

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110804/ … 1.457.html

“In 2006, for example, scientists thought that the change in colour of a few gullies suggested that they were being actively carved by water. The phenomenon is now generally thought to result from the cyclical freezing and sublimation of carbon dioxide.”

4) November, 2008
Water on Mars! Radar shows there are ice glaciers under the Martian surface. You can just glance over that this is at mid-latitudes on Mars, and please ignore that we already know about ice at Mars’ polar regions. PARTY TIME!

But ice is not liquid water, some cry out, it’s frozen water. Okay, fine. We won’t debate about states of matter not actually making molecules into different things. Because, here comes 2011.


“Soundings of these deposits in the eastern Hellas region by the Shallow Radar on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal radar properties entirely consistent with massive water ice”

5) August, 2011
LIQUID Water on Mars! The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence of liquid briny water oozing around during the warm season, and disappearing – presumably freezing solid – in the cold season. PARTY TIME?

Well, scientists are hesitant to go declaring liquid water, due to that faux pas back in 2006. But news outlets have a field day with it. And by 2013, it’s accepted that there is water deep underground on Mars. Still, some say that’s not good enough. To be truly useful, the water needs to not be salty! Okay…

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110804/ … 1.457.html

“He says that the streaks are the strongest evidence yet for the existence of liquid water on Mars today.”

“The public has grown accustomed to hearing about water-related discoveries on Mars, but few researchers have suggested that liquid water currently exists at the planet’s surface.”

http://www.nature.com/news/water-seems- … rs-1.14343

“”This behaviour is easy to understand if these are seeps of water,” says planetary scientist Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona in Tucson, who led that study. “Water will darken most soils.””

“He says that this suggests that water may come from groundwater deep in the crust”

http://www.iflscience.com/space/free-fl … uator-mars

“There is now evidence that certain areas of the red planet may still have free flowing water during certain times of the year.”

6) December, 2013
Ancient FRESH water lake found by Curiosity rover. Take that! PARTY TIME!

What, the word “ancient” is tripping some people up? As in, is that a lake that has been in existence for so long it’s ancient in age, or is that a lake that used to exist in ancient times but not any longer? Alright, just one more year…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national … story.html

“evidence of an ancient lake — with water that could plausibly be described as drinkable”

7) December, 2014
Liquid water is found on Mars by the Curiosity rover. As in, the rover cracked open a rock and some very old water spilled out. Quite literally! PARTY TIME!

What? Liquid fresh water isn’t enough? It has to be on the surface too (because we already knew about underground water in 2013 anyway)? Man, some people are really picky. Though they don’t even seem to care that the water found in that rock was a bit too heavy for mammal consumption.

http://www.space.com/28030-mars-water-c … rover.html

“The rover drilled into a piece of Martian rock called Cumberland and found some ancient water hidden within it.”

“But the water sample is also about three times “heavier” than Earth’s oceans.”

8) September, 2015

The headline of NASA’s press release is “NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars”. Reading the article, and knowing Mars’ water discovery history as we do, reveals that this is not a new reveal. This is a CONFIRMATION announcement of the discovery announcement from 2011, which was announced as accepted in 2013. Oh, with the addition that yes, the water seeps to the surface every once in a while, to be considered flowing.


Has everyone but us forgotten that this is salt water?

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa … ay-s-mars/

“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 in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.””

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