— -- NASA revealed today liquid water has been found on the surface of Mars -- upending the perception of Mars as a completely arid, desert-like planet.
The finding also fuels speculation that life may have at one time thrived on Mars or could possibly even exist today.
A study published in the journal Nature Geoscience identified waterlogged molecules taken from readings from orbit.
“We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm salty seas and fresh water lakes,” Jim Green, planetary science director at NASA, said at a news conference. “But something has happened to Mars, it lost its water.”
Dark, 100-meter-long streaks flowing downhill on Mars are believed to have been formed by contemporary flowing water, according to NASA. The findings come from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and raise the possibility there could be life -- or even microbes -- living inside the Red Planet.
Researchers said they don’t yet know where the briny water is coming from on Mars.
"Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons," Lujendra Ojha, a researcher from Georgia Tech who worked on the paper, said in a statement. "This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense because salts lower the freezing point of water.”
While today’s discovery is huge, it is small compared to the rivers, lakes and vast oceans that are believed to have flowed on Mars billions of years ago. The findings, however, are a boon for a future human mission to Mars since the existence of water could help lighten astronauts' load.
“I think all of the scientific discoveries we’re making on the surface of Mars…these observations are giving us a much better view that Mars has resources that are useful to future travels," John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator, said at the news conference. "I think all of the scientific discoveries we’re making on the surface of Mars, these observations are giving us a much better view that Mars has resources that are useful to future travels."