With The Martian topping bestseller lists and a movie adaptation hitting theaters this week, people are even more excited than usual about NASA's big Mars announcement — but what scientists have discovered is way, way cooler than Matt Damon in a spacesuit. In Monday's widely circulated press release, the space agency put it simply: "New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars."
However, the more thrilling part of this announcement was lead Mars Exploration Program scientist Michael Meyer's follow-up with The Guardian, in which he declared: "There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars . . . Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today." Yep, you read that right: this discovery brings us one step closer to colonizing the Red Planet. Who needs books and movies about Mars when real-life possibilities are this exciting?
In an animated rendering of the planet's water flow (viewable above), NASA shows seasonal ebbs and flows of hydrated minerals within one of the planet's craters. While the water on the planet appears to be briny, the fact of its existence on modern-day Mars is a huge step in the direction of further planetary exploration. "It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet," Meyer said in NASA's press release. "It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future."
Curious about the details of this new Mars news? Check out NASA's full statement and give the agency's fascinating video a watch (or three).