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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Water on Mars: Why are we so interested?

Nasa scientists believe that water could still be flowing in Mars. Gullies, channels and deltas of debris have been photographed by the Mars Global Surveyor, a probe currently orbiting the red planet.

Our science editor thinks this is probably the most important thing ever discovered about a planet in our solar system. It will almost certainly boost demands for a lander craft to be sent to Mars to investigate the water and look for signs of life.

Do you think it is so important? Is it worth spending billions of dollars trying to find water on Mars? Or would the money be better spent trying to find sources of clean water for the inhabitants of Earth? What does our fascination with outer space tell us about ourselves?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Our fascination with space tells a lot about our own egotism

Andrej, Russia
We want the most amazing discoveries to be made in our lifetime, we want to live to see the most spectacular events. Our fascination with space tells a lot about our own egotism.
Andrej, Russia

Water on Mars, brilliant! All we need now is for NASA to experiment growing plants in this region, for example, barley, hops, etc. Then we could open a brewery there and have Martian beer. This should attract more interest from potential British astronauts.
Andy S, England

It's important to seek water on Mars to understand more about the cosmos, but it's also important to provide clean water for everyone on Earth. We have the resources to do both. Scientific exploration by a species with a conscience, I say!
I. N. Dyson, UK


Surely after a quarter of a century we should now be capable of travelling to Mars.

Patrick Smith, England
I think the money is well worth spending, but I hope it will be a joint effort and not a case of one nation (or group of nations) doing it to appear more superior. It's been over 25 years since man walked on the moon surely after a quarter of a century we should now be capable of travelling to Mars.
Patrick Smith, England

Nasa should first find out a better, faster and cheaper way of propulsion before attempting to journey to Mars, so that we can test its effectiveness for making such long distance space travel. It may came handy when we attempt to land on Europa, which I'm convinced is a much easier to colonise its material than Mars. It's worth spending money on it.
Satz Chan, India

Life on Mars: Religion is DEAD!
Mike, United States


My grandfather worked on mission control on all of the Apollo missions

Lea, USA
I don't think the point is that they want to find water to prove that there "is" life there but that Mars is capable of supporting life. My grandfather worked on mission control on all of the Apollo missions, and as it excited him at the thought of seeing man set foot on another planet some 30-odd years ago, it excites me to imagine that we may set foot on a planet capable of supporting us.
Lea, USA

Exploration of space can draw humanity together and perhaps stop them squabbling. Knowing the human race, as soon as life elsewhere is found they'll forget about arguing amongst themselves and concentrate on eradicating the extraterrestrial life.
Jason, UK

Makes you think. All that money spent on Mars. I still prefer Kit-Kat or Milky Way bars myself.
Ken Buxton, England

I think that it is brilliant that NASA has found water on Mars. Well done America!! I also feel that it is extremely important that we carry on exploring space (along with many other aspects of life) if we are to carry on moving forward. There is so much more for us to find out there and we must discover it before it's too late.
Kelly Bell, England


We will look back at this moment in 50 years and wonder why we didn't colonise Mars any sooner

Louis Kabbani, UK
We have been exploring planets for decades. It captures our imagination and satisfies our need to explore. Planet earth cannot sustain an ever-growing population. We need to expand and find a new home. We will look back at this moment in 50 years and wonder why we didn't colonise Mars any sooner.
Louis Kabbani, UK

The only reason why NASA is so interested in finding life on Mars is because McDonalds and Coca-Cola are running out of customers.
Christian Bodhi, UK

I fully endorse expansion to Mars, I'm just tired of watching expensive equipment burn or smash up when it gets there.
Paul Charters, England


Maybe this will be the chance for the European Space Agency to take on NASA and win

Dan Smith, UK
Maybe this will be the chance for the European Space Agency to take on NASA and win. The resulting boost to the EU's economy could ensure that they dominate the rest of the century as the world's largest trading block. Why should it be an American led project? This is something that could bring Europe together.
Dan Smith, UK

The science community must send people to Mars before our private multi-national real-estate agencies and lawyers get there first!
Yogin Oro, Japan

The population is exploding here on earth. We should go on full speed ahead.
Jenny , UK


If there turned out to be life on Mars it would be the greatest scientific discovery ever

Simon Dresner, UK
I find most of the comments made so far depressingly superficial. If there turned out to be life on Mars it would be the greatest scientific discovery ever. Exploring Mars is not that expensive. A robotic Mars mission costs about as much as a Hollywood blockbuster. Sending people there is what would cost serious money. But I'm sceptical that there actually is life on Mars. If there is life there should be some chemical trace in the atmosphere and we know from previous landers that there is no such trace.
Simon Dresner, UK

I see the GAO has just found another trillion or so in budget surpluses. Rather than waste it all on social reforms or taxcuts for the wealthy, lets blow it all on sending a manned mission to mars THIS decade. The resultant boost to american space industry alone would probably ensure US dominance of the world economy for the remainder of the century.
Partridge, USA

I think more attention should be given to protect the global environment and preserve clean water on our planet earth than using resources to research in mars. I hoped the scientists would have already learnt the lesson of orbit research. To evaluate from late 60's to 2000, what they contributed of the resources they've spent so far. These resources could have been better use for betterment of the planet earth.
Mian Akbar Hussein, Bangladesh

It is important only as long as it is a cheap and affordable. Once the budget is overstretched, it is something else.
Sunny Chia Bart Por, Tampines, Singapore

When humanity stops expanding, it stagnates and regresses. This we know from history. Should we fail to grasp the opportunity to expand to Mars, humankind will have no goal, no greater purpose, except the current consumerist greed. Humans need Mars if we want to survive.
Kristian, Canada

Forget the arms race, forget ABM systems, and forget NATO. It is time for the U.S. to pump up the space budget and put all those aerospace defense contractors to work on space technology to get us there and make a colony workable. I'd much rather see my tax dollars applied toward launching fellow countrymen to Mars than sending them off to war.
Thom, USA


Maybe we should wait, Mars isn't going anywhere. And take care of things here on Earth.

George Papadakis, USA
Maybe we should wait, Mars isn't going anywhere. And take care of things here on Earth.
George Papadakis, USA

Lets jump ahead a few decades when Mars is being colonised. Won't the same issues apply on Mars as they do here on Earth. Won't countries be squabbling over territory there too? and won't the US claim the planet as its own and stake its flag on Olympus Mons? After all, it is finders keepers!
Ben Snowdon, England

I think that Space exploration is money well spent in the long run, we should be careful that we don't overlook better ways to spend it here on earth. It would also be a mistake to allow the abuses that have occurred on Earth to happen to Mars.
Ryan, USA

If there is water on Mars then there is a likely chance that there is the potential for some kind of life forms. If that should prove to be the case then we may learn more about our earth than anyone ever expected. And it will undoubtedly reveal secrets that science will want to study.
Dave Adams, USA

Perhaps if we prove life exists on one of our closest neighbours it will cause us to question Christian teachings. Life on Mars? Life on Titan? Life in the atmosphere of Jupiter? All these possibilities in our tiny quadrant of the universe. God must have been very busy - more so if the Earth alone took 7 days.
Brian Gaze, England


What most people forget is that the money spent on "going to the moon" or in this case Mars, is actually spent on the ground

Mark, USA/ UK
The technological benefits to all of mankind from the 60's space race are still coming in even now. What most people forget is that the money spent on "going to the moon" or in this case Mars, is actually spent on the ground. It pays scientists, builders, engineers etc who then spend it on goods and services in their communities, creating new jobs and work for others. It doesn't somehow get blasted out into space! Mankind needs goals and objectives, like getting to Mars, to drive the human spirit ever upward, to newer and more difficult challenges. Otherwise, we will wither and die.
Mark, USA/ UK

Water on mars means Mankind can expand and conquer new territory Manned mission should be organised as soon as possible. It's nigh time mankind expanded
J.M U.S

Only conditions on this planet are perfect for life, because God created it. Scientists who are locked into their pointless evolutionary 'faith' desperately search for proof. Instead of accepting the obvious. God is real and life on Mars has never been. It is here that we find our past and our future destiny, and it costs nothing to do so.
Tim Hignett, New Zealand (ex UK)

It is important. If we can colonise just a bit of Mars, then we will have advanced our plight to see more of the universe we live in. It all sounds like sci fi, but so was landing on the moon. Mars could hold they key to understanding about what will happen to earth. It's a good model for research. However, I think that until we address war, famine and population, the money should be spent elsewhere.
Craig, England

We should project ourselves beyond everyday life and look to the future as well. Discovery of water or life on Mars could help us understand better the laws of nature and ultimately improve the quality of life here on Earth.
Vesna Urosev, Canada

Like Phil wrote, the whole thing is not just about finding water on Mars but developing our capabilities to discover things about the universe. I think the money is well spent.
Jon Björklund, Finland


Where would humankind be without a sense of occasional adventure?

David Gosnell, UK
Whether or not there is or ever was life on Mars, it is important for humankind to persevere and explore the universe we live in. If this latest "find" provides a fresh impetus to do so, then go for it. The universe in all its wonderful and awesome vastness is out there. It's not going to come and visit us, so to idly sit back and ignore it when we have the ability to do otherwise is sheer waste on an unimaginable scale. Where would humankind be without a sense of occasional adventure?
David Gosnell, UK

Why not kill two birds with one stone - ship the Mars water back here and donate it to Earth inhabitants who are running short. That way both space explorers and thirsty people will be satisfied.
Manuel Gillet, Luxembourg

All those people who say spending money on space research is a waste. What would you do without your telephones, mobiles, satellite TV, live news, accurate weather reports? Mars exploration can lead to new materials being found, new drugs, maybe even colonisation.
Vishal Vashisht, UK

Perhaps, if we discover we are not alone in the universe, it will bring peace to the peoples of Earth.
Christian Peterson, UK


Humans are explorers

Nick, UK in Germany
Why climb a mountain or dive to the bottom of the sea? Why visit a foreign country on vacation? Simple, because it is there. Humans are explorers.
Nick, UK in Germany

Instead of spending billions of dollars to investigate water on Mars, we should spend the money on social issues.
George E. Caspary, USA

The hypothesis that the human race originated from one of those primordial Martian swamps (after our Mitochondrian ancestors were catapulted to Earth on the back of a meteorite blast) now makes sense. We are obviously desperate to get back to where we started from.
Jonathan, UK

What I've always wanted to know is, why these missions always cost billions of dollars? What is it that makes them so expensive?
Frank Bradshaw, UK

We live in a world in which every 3 seconds somebody dies due a preventable disease. Where should these billions be spent?
John Sanderson, Singapore


Maybe we should create an unlimited form of power before we attempt to go to Mars

Colin, New Zealand
I don't think anyone is really interested in Mars having water. It's more or less those NASA scientists trying to create hype so they will get more funding for space exploration. Maybe we should create an unlimited form of power before we attempt to go to Mars.
Colin, New Zealand

Oh great! We may have the opportunity to trash another planet.
John, USA

Well if we can charge the foolish 75p for a bottle of Evian just think what we can charge for Mars water
Gerry, Scotland


I would like to know if there is intelligent life on Mars, since there seems to be precious little of it on Earth

John B, UK
I think it should be investigated. The cost can be recouped, if necessary, by cutting back on the mindless bureaucracy and duplication of effort by government departments in general. I would like to know if there is intelligent life on Mars, since there seems to be precious little of it on Earth.
John B, UK

Total waste of cash. Mars is a reddish lump of rock orbiting the Sun. Who cares if there is water there, it has not stopped raining here for days. Mars is for Martians I say!
Robert, Australia

I hope evidence of life elsewhere in the universe is found for no better reason than it would force most religions on this planet to rethink their principles and teachings. That alone would be a gigantic step forward for mankind.
Bob, UK


Perhaps we should be spending some of the cash on helping those less fortunate on this planet

Tony, UK
Perhaps we should be spending some of the cash on helping those less fortunate on this planet. I am an avid astronomer though and find this new information very exciting.
Tony, UK

Space exploration ranks on the leading edge of the pioneering "Frontier" spirit. Finding out about the universe around us is important to understand more of ourselves and where we fit in. We should be curious. Had we not had a pioneering spirit, we would not have discovered the world is round.
Phil W, UK

Two words: "real estate".
T.J. Cassidy, USA

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22 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Water may flow on Mars


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