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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ENTERPRISE MISSION INVESTIGATORS CONFIRM
EXISTENCE OF PRESENT DAY WATER ON MARS

Placitas, NM, 07/19/2000 -- New research by investigators for the Enterprise Mission (www.enterprisemission.com), a private, not-for-profit space science research organization, has revealed strong evidence of present day liquid water on Mars in recent Mars Global surveyor images. Coming on the heels of the June 22nd, 2000 NASA press conference in which Malin Space Science Systems investigators Michael Malin and Kenneth Edgett asserted the possibility that Mars may have had liquid water in the geologically recent past, this new photographic evidence confirms that liquid water is almost certainly existent on Mars today.

This new finding, announced by Enterprise Mission principal investigator Richard C. Hoagland on the July 18th/19th edition of the nationwide radio program "Coast to Coast AM with Mike Siegel," (www.coasttocoastam.com) goes far beyond what was presented by Malin and Edgett at their June 22nd press briefing.

"It's pretty unambiguous," Hoagland said in an interview. "We can see the crack in the crater wall where the liquid started to flow from, and follow a clear flow path down the slope of the crater mound. The flow patch is dark and wet, indicating it may have been only hours old when MGS photographed it."

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The image, SP2-33806,(http://barsoom.msss.com/moc_gallery/images/SP233806.html) is distinguished from the photographs presented by Malin and Edgett in their paper by a number of factors. During the June 22nd press briefing, Malin and Edgett showed images of eroded channels, mostly along crater walls, that suggested that water flows may have carved the features. Using various dating techniques, they placed the possible geologic age of these water flow features at as recent as 1 million years ago. They presented no evidence of current water flows, although they held out the possibility that water could be present on Mars today. 

The image released by Hoagland on the Enterprise Mission web site showed no such erosion channels or grooves. Since liquid water on Mars would evaporate in the thin Martian atmosphere in a matter of hours, at the most, this is a strong indication that the flow was very fresh when photographed by MGS only a little more than two years ago. "Whatever flowed there did not have the time or the energy to cut a groove in the crater wall," Hoagland said. "So it must have been very fresh."

The Enterprise Mission discovery, found by Hoagland and analyzed by Hoagland and Enterprise Mission associate investigator Michael Bara, also supports the water spring model that Malin and Edgett had put forth in their June press briefing. Malin and Edgett had proposed that semi-permeable water pockets in crater walls were the source of the flows. However, by their own reckoning, such burst pockets should have been preferentially found at mid latitudes (between 10 North and South -- the equatorial region) and along the sun exposed walls of these cliff and crater features. Instead, all of the water bursts cited by Malin and Edgett were found in the far Northern and Southern latitudes (above 30), on the poleward (away from the sun) slopes of the crater walls, where it should have been too cold to be in a liquid state. They were unable to provide any examples of any mid latitude equatorial facing seepages. The image found by Hoagland, however, is at a mid latitude (9.70 N) and on a sunward facing slope.

"We're happy to help confirm what the guys at MSSS couldn't," Hoagland said. "This seems to fit where they expected to find the water very neatly. But there are still big problems for their model, as far as the water in the cold regions on the poleward facing slopes." Hoagland added that Enterprise Mission researchers had some new ideas about how those features may have been created, and would be presenting that data in the near future.

Hoagland held out the possibility that the observed flow could be something other than liquid water. "It's very dark. It could even be oil or some other liquid substance." Although oil is generally thought to require the presence of biological materials to breakdown and form, Hoagland cited the ideas of Cornell University astronomer Dr. Tommy Gold, who has proposed an "abiogenic" (non-biological) origin for oil on Earth and other "terrestrial" planets. "Still, it's most likely water. We know there were once vast quantities of water on Mars, and that is the most likely source of this flow," said Hoagland.

If liquid water is currently present on Mars, it substantially changes the scenarios for Mars exploration. With a source of liquid water, a proposed manned Mars mission could conceivably "live off the land" for month or years. It would also mean that microbial life would likely still be present on Mars. 

The next step for the Enterprise Mission researchers is to submit their findings to scientific journals for review. Other images examined by Hoagland have shown what appear to be similar flows of fresh, liquid water. Those additional images will be included in the papers submitted for publication. In addition, Hoagland expects to add additional authors to the paper eventually submitted to the journals. "More scientists are coming on board on this," Hoagland said.


Richard C. Hoagland is founder and principal investigator of the Enterprise Mission. In 1971, Hoagland successfully proposed to NASA (along with fellow researcher, Eric Burgess) that a "message" be attached to Earth's first interstellar spacecraft: Pioneer 10. NASA, through the offices of Dr. Carl Sagan, accepted the proposal and thus was born the well-known "Pioneer Plaque." Hoagland has also served as an official NASA consultant to the Goddard Space Flight Center; and, in the 1960's was formal science advisor to Walter Cronkite and CBS News, during NASA's Apollo Program to the Moon. In the early 1980's, based on NASA data from the more sophisticated unmanned Voyager fly-bys of the outer planets, Hoagland became the first to propose (in a widely-quoted series of UPI and AP stories on his startling paper, published in 1980 in Star & Sky magazine) the possible existence of "deep ocean life" under the global ice shield perpetually surrounding the enigmatic moon of Jupiter, Europa. In 1993, for his continuing work on possible "extraterrestrial artifacts" and their implications, Hoagland was awarded the prestigious international Angstrom Medal for Excellence in Science.




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