By Jim Brace-Thompson
Many Earth and planetary scientists now agree that in the far distant past (as in billions of years ago), Mars was a much wetter planet and much more Earth-like with huge lakes, rivers, and even oceans filled to overflowing with liquid water. On their way to The Red Planet, multiple robotic missions hope to shed further light on such speculation by compiling ever more evidence to support that which has already been collected to date.
But before any of those missions even come close to Mars, a probe currently in Mars orbit (the European Space Agency's Mars Express) continues to stir the pot about liquid water now on the planet, never mind the distant past. Back in 2018, data suggested a 230-square-mile lake-like reservoir of liquid water might reside nearly a mile beneath ice near the Martian south pole. A new report in the journal Nature Astronomy suggests still more underground pools encircling that underground reservoir.
Once humans begin arriving on The Red Planet, does this mean they'll be able to enjoy a refreshing sip after a long voyage? Well, maybe not. Planetary scientists say that such water is likely very salty to keep from freezing. (Either that, or there's an underground magma chamber keeping the water on simmer.) Still, our oceans are also salty, and thus—per a report in Science News—scientist Roberto Orosei notes, "This area is the closest thing to 'habitable' on Mars that has been found so far."