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Scientists discover huge lake on Mars

28 July 2018

Australian experts have applauded the find, saying the discovery of liquid and frozen water resources is key due to their ability to produce fuel and provide life support for astronauts during deep space missions, allowing lower cost launches and space operations.

The discovery was made using MARSIS, a ground-penetrating radar tool aboard the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft orbiting Mars.

"The shift from "warm and wet" to "frozen wasteland" would have occurred very, very slowly, giving any life that got started on Mars plenty of time to adapt and to move with the water".

Finding that much water could be a great signpost in our search for life on Mars, but the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

These readings suggest there could be a lake of liquid water under the ice.

Such radar reflects brightly where ice and water meet, a method scientist have used to detect sub-glacial lakes on Earth.

"Discovery of a large water supply on Mars confirms we're heading in the right direction".

Between 2012 and December 2015 the Planum Australe region was mapped by the Mars Advance Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Marsis) instrument carried on the orbiter.

"This is the place on Mars where you have something that most resembles a habitat, a place where life could subsist", said planetary scientist Roberto Orosei of Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica in Italy, who led the research published in the journal Science.

There had been some signs of liquid water now on Mars, including disputed evidence of water activity on Martian slopes, but not stable bodies of water. However, the presence of liquid water at the base of Martian polar caps was first hypothesized in a study 31 years ago. In comparison, salty ocean water freezes at 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For now, researchers will continue to investigate this lake and search for water elsewhere on Mars.

"Caution needs to be exercised, however, as the concentration of salts needed to keep the water liquid could be fatal for any microbial life similar to Earth's", added Watson, who was not involved in the research.

"That water could be sourced from asteroids, the moon, or Mars". Scientists say they've detected water beneath the surface of Mars.

Being able to access water sources could also help humans survive on a future crewed mission to Earth's neighbouring planet, with NASA aiming to send explorers in the 2030s. The chambers allow for experiments in pressure and temperature environments similar to conditions found on other planets.

Scientists discover huge lake on Mars