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Knoxville — A University of Tennessee geologist said NASA researchers will look more closely for signs of liquid water on Mars.

Dr. Harry McSween, who has worked on several NASA projects, said photographs from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft show evidence of fresh channels and gullies, possibly carved by liquid water.

“In December 1999 there was a science paper published that argued that a large part of the northern hemisphere of Mars was once covered with an ocean,” McSween said, “perhaps a billion years ago.”

“With this discovery, if it’s what I think it is,” McSween said, “it brings liquid water on Mars right up to the present day.”

NASA said if surface water really does exist on Mars, it would make it easier for astronauts to build livable colonies there.