Liquid Water on Mars?

Having been essentially raised on Star Trek (Next Generation, in case you’re wondering – I appreciate the merits of TOS, but this is a story for another time), is it any wonder that I kind of love pretty much any story about the science of space and other worlds beyond our own?

As it turns out, I also love Gawker’s io9 science-fiction/fantasy blog, and I love it doubly when io9 writes articles about the science of space and other worlds!

In a nutshell, scientists have discovered what they believe is evidence of liquid water on Mars. Due to Mars’ extremely low temperatures, even in the sun, this water would have to be extremely brackish and pretty much full of salt.

Obviously, nothing has yet been confirmed. Maybe this will be a good destination for the new Mars rover that we’ll be sending up there in the next couple of years, to see exactly what’s going on. However, based on the research, the scientists seem to think that the possibility at least exists that we are seeing liquid mountain streams on that cold, mostly-dead rock.

Now, while the presence of liquid water on Mars isn’t really all that exciting from a practical standpoint (water ice would be a much better source of drinkable water for any kind of colony, and there’s plenty of that already), the idea of a liquid water stream on another planet, brackish or no, should thrill anyone who reads or writes science fiction. This is our dreams coming to life, people!

The possibility of liquid water on an extraterrestrial planet in our own solar system means that water, and therefore oxygen, are not necessarily the rare occurrences that we may have thought. If true, this may also increase the likelihood of extremophile microbial life from an entirely different world.

Sometimes I think I understand why nobody writes sci-fi anymore (and when they do it’s that dull half-literary stuff that I can’t stand). We’re living in a time when we’re realizing the dreams of science-fiction. Personal, portable data devices are ubiquitous, we’re seeing other worlds through the eyes of robot invaders that we’ve sent, discovering planets orbiting other stars and almost the entire world is connected through a string of wires that lets us yell at each other anonymously and post pictures of kitties and people falling off skateboards.

I hope the days of visionary sci-fi come back soon. Maybe with the global economy slowing and souring, we’ll start to have some optimism return to fiction, rather than continuing the trend of depressing tales of global ruin continuing to flood everything.

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