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March 24, 2004
For More Information:
George Whitesides
Executive Director
(202) 429-1600


Finding Strengthens Case for Large Amounts of Ground Water on Mars Today - Makes Future Human Mars Missions Much Easier

WASHINGTON, DC - National Space Society Executive Director George Whitesides issued the following statement on the discovery that "a salty sea" once existed near the Equator of Mars at the Meridiani Planum landing site. This second major water-related discovery within a month was made by the Mars Rover Teams at the same Opportunity rover landing site.

"This spectacular discovery vindicates those who have supported the geological evidence for an early 'wet' Mars. It reinforces the chances that salty liquid water still exists deep underground in many areas of Mars. This suggests that Mars is a more hospitable place for human exploration and settlement than previously thought, and may well make the establishment of future human Mars bases and settlements much easier. If large amounts of the water can be obtained by deep drilling, it can be used for drinking, for washing, to create hydrogen for rocket fuel, oxygen for breathing, and for processing rocks into useful materials. We await the arrival of Opportunity at the large crater 'Endurance' which may hold even better clues to Mars' past."

The discovery was made by the identification of cross-bedding of fine sediment layers in the rocks, producing a distinct and unique visual pattern formed in the presence of gently moving water. This provides strong evidence that the rocks were deposited in surface water, not by underground water. Last week the Mars "Blueberrys" were found to be made of hematite, which forms in water. The "rocks" themselves are actually very similar to dry lake-bed deposits such as those at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The presence of an ancient sea of unknown size implies that other minerals dissolved in the ground water, containing elements which will be very useful to humans in the future.

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The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, international, educational, grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. The NSS has more than 22,000 members, and 50 chapters in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The NSS, founded in 1974, is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen's voice on space.

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