Finding Liquid Water On Mars: It Could Hold Enough Oxygen To Support Life


Finding liquid water on Mars has been one of the most stringent goals of NASA’s Mars program.

Nobody really thought that the concentrations of dissolved oxygen that are needed for supporting life could actually exist on Mars, says JPL’s Vlada Stamenkovic.

Recently, data from European spacecraft have suggested that liquid water may be lying beneath a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole. Theories also claim that water could exist in salty subsurface pools because compounds of chlorine and oxygen have been found in various places on Mars.

It’s a known thing that salt lowers the freezing point of water, and this means that water which contains perchlorate in it could stay liquid despite freezing temperatures which can reach even -100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Caltech researchers have just found that water on Mars could contain more oxygen than previously believed, enough to support aerobic respiration.

Aerobic life on Mars? 

A team led by scientists at Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which Caltech manages for NASA, said that if liquid water exists on Mars, it could include more oxygen than previously thought possible.

According to the model, the levels could even theoretically exceed the threshold needed to support simple aerobic life.

The existence of liquid water on Mars is not a given, and even if it is there, researchers have eliminated the idea that it might be oxygenated a while ago, considering the fact that Mars’ atmosphere is 160 thinner than the one of our planet and it’s mostly carbon dioxide.

“Oxygen is a key ingredient when determining the habitability of an environment, but it is relatively scarce on Mars,” says Woody Fischer, co-author of a Nature Geoscience paper on the findings, which were published a couple of days ago.

The team found that, at low-enough elevations and at low-enough temperatures, an unexpectedly high amount of oxygen could exist in the water.


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