Water Oozing On Mars. Meh?
Yesterday, the big news was that NASA has solved a “mystery”.
What they found: There is, in the present, not just the distant past, a small amount of unfrozen water in a small number of places on or near the surface of Mars. It’s oozing around, creating a signature form of salt called perchlorate.
It’s a somewhat significant discovery, scientifically, but I find my impression of the earning is colored by the dramatic hype before yesterday’s announcement. The claim that there was some kind of great mystery about NASA had solved just wasn’t borne out.
Whether there is life on Mars, or ever has been, is a mystery. It really hasn’t been a mystery whether there is currently liquid water on Mars. There have been suggestions in the past of very recent flows of water in a mostly arid landscape. So, yesterday’s announcement was really more of a clarification, or a confirmation of earlier clues.
Rather than a mystery solved, it’s the equivalent in a mystery novel of a murder witness admitting that she was, in fact, at her lover’s apartment rather than her mother’s house at the time of the murder. It’s a step forward, but I wish NASA’s scientists would stop pretending that this sort of news is an historical breakthrough that we will never forget.