In chambers that mimic Mars' conditions, Michigan Engineering researchers have shown how small amounts of liquid water could form on the planet despite its below-freezing temperatures. The researchers found that a type of salt present in Martian soil can readily melt ice it touches -- just like salts do on Earth's slippery winter walkways and roads.
Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life as we know it. The U-M experiments are among the first to test theories about how it could exist in a climate as cold as Mars'. The findings support the theory that strange globules seen on the Mars Phoenix lander's leg were liquid water.