NASA on Monday revealed that data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) confirmed that liquid water flows on present day Mars, a discovery that raises the possibility that alien life does exist on the Red Planet today.

Researchers have not seen the water directly but they have detected water-bearing salts in the mysterious streaks marked by downhill flow known as recurring slope lineae (RSL).

RSL is often linked with the possibility for liquid water. The streaks darken during warm seasons and then disappear in cooler seasons.

The salts were observed to be more abundant along the streaks than in the soil between them, which suggests of repeated deposits from current sources. NASA scientists said that this strongly hints that the streaks are formed by liquid water on the Red Planet today.

"We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration," said Lujendra Ojha, from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

"In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks."

John Grunsfeld, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said that the findings suggest that it would be possible for life to exist on Mars today.

Although liquid water seems to appear only during the summer, NASA scientists said that it is still possible for Martian life to thrive albeit they may have to hibernate when the water disappears. 

NASA Mars scientists who participated in a Reddit AMA said that some forms of life on Earth also hibernate during dry seasons. The Martian water though is considered too salty that microbes may not be able to survive in the harsh liquid.

Besides raising the possibility for extraterrestrial life on Mars, the new findings also give hope that the Red Planet has natural resources that future astronauts from Earth could mine when they get there, a goal that the U.S. space agency aims to accomplish this century.

Water on Mars could be harvested for consumption and provision of oxygen for breathing. It could also be used for making solid rocket fuel.

"All of the scientific discoveries that we're making on the surface of Mars ... are giving us a much better view that Mars has resources that are useful to future travelers," Grunsfeld said.

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