Still, water is water-and it could be a sign of potential life on the Red Planet, or at least a sign of potential support for a colony.
Now, scientists have found evidence of a lake of liquid water under the planet's south polar ice cap.
"A similar situation has been discovered here on Earth, 4km below the ice of Antarctica, in Lake Vostok, where scientists have observed very primitive life in an area that is equally devoid of light and likely at similar temperatures", he says. They can not see the bottom with existing equipment, but they estimate it is at least three feet deep, otherwise they would not have detected it at all.
"The salts - which are likely similar to those found by Nasa's Phoenix spacecraft in the ice of the northern polar area (of Mars) - work like "anti-freeze", helping maintain the water in a liquid state", the Italian Space Agency (ASI) said in the statement.
Scientists have also traveled deep underground into mines and found microorganisms related to ancient species that once lived in watery environments much closer to the surface. One NASA expert said more radar scans with different tools will help rule out false positives.
"If there is microbial life operating there, it's operating under conditions that would be at the very limits of what we know life operates under here on Earth", said Brent Christner, a microbiologist at the University of Florida. This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water - albeit briny - is flowing today on the surface of Mars. The lake could be a possible habitat for life, the report said.
Lead author Roberto Orosei surveyed a region called Planum Australe, located in the southern ice cap of Mars, from May 2012 until December 2015.
Italian researchers using radar to probe the planet's polar ice caps have detected a lake of liquid water under the Martian ice, stretching 20 kilometers across, according to the study. Mars is famously rich in magnesium, calcium, and sodium which could have all dissolved into the water, forming a brine and dropping the freezing point of water much lower. But Clifford holds out hope subsurface geothermal hotspots like those that power volcanoes and hot springs on Earth could sufficiently heat portions of the Martian underworld to allow liquid reservoirs to exist there without the need for life-sabotaging salt levels.
But on Mars, things like water and glacial activity are at a minimum, and other phenomena that could separate particles of rock - such as meteorite impacts - would create coarser fragments, not the fine powder that's choking Opportunity as we speak. This new discovery suggests that there had always been liquid water on Mars, but we had been looking in the wrong place. "They're eating the rocks for energy".
We'll hit you up again when they find the aliens.
The body of water is roughly 12 miles across and buried a mile below the ice, the scientists reported in the study published Wednesday in the journal Science.