There’s Water on Mars

Today’s press conference for the Phoenix Mars Lander presented some fascinating information. All indications are that there is in fact water on Mars. The landing current landing site was chosen as a place where ice was very likely to exist, based on subsurface hydrogen detected by the orbiting 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft.

The first soil samples taken from the surface of Mars showed a tendency for the soil to clump together. There was also a visible presence of a white substance, that sometimes appeared to form layers below the soil surface.

More test trenches were dug this week, and photographs of the trenches show something very interesting.


Look in the bottom left of the trench in the Sol 20 frame on the left. There are several white clumps of material there that you can see even more clearly in the insert. Now look at the Sol24 frame. The clumps of white material have disappeared. Where did they go?

NASA scientists say this is exactly what they expected to happen when they found water on Mars. Remember, it is extremely cold there. Water boils at 4 degrees Celsius on Mars. It moves from solid to vapor form almost instantly, leaving little evidence of a liquid state. Moisture may contribute to the soil clumping, but the soil never appears wet.

The scientists next action will be to move some of the white clumps in to a TEGA oven. TEGA is the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer that “bakes and sniffs” out the chemical composition of the soil. They will also use the MECA to examine results.

The MECA is Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, which is a wet chemistry lab that measures levels of acidity, minerals, and conductivity in dirt samples. It will help the team determine the possibility of “livability of Mars.” The Phoenix Mars Lander does not have the means to determine if there is life on Mars, it is meant to find whether the basic building blocks for life are present in the soil of Mars.

For an more detailed article on today’s press release, follow this link: NASA Press Release

You keep coming back. Looks like there is more to come on this story.

Smiles. ET

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 5:46 am  Comments (1)  
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Latest Scoop on The Phoenix Mars Lander

With the press release on Monday, questions were put to rest regarding whether the shield around the Phoenix Lander robotic arm would hinder its’ operation.

Test scoops of Martian soil

These pictures show the arm is working fine, and full of Martian soil.

Take note those white specks in the red soil.

We are now told that those might be salt, rather than ice.Salt would mean the water on Mars disappeared long ago. For me, that was a whole new prospect.

The Phoenix Mission Site, operated by The University of Arizona in Tucson, has some great PDF articles about the importance of water in supporting life anywhere. These are great resources for reports and presentations.

The Phoenix Mission Plan calls for three trenches to be dug by the robotic shovel arm. The latest scoop on the scoop, says the NASA guys decided to dump their first bucket full of soil, and try for another. “Practice makes perfect,” mother used to say. Simple experiment, but now there is a new issue.

Some of the soil stuck to the shovel. Does that mean moisture? I am sure they will get back to us when they figure that part out. What it does mean is that what comes out of the shovel might not flow like sand. That will affect what gets in the ovens and causes concerns over damage to the oven doors.

The oven doors are also raising eyebrows. You can see one oven door has opened properly, and the other has only opened partially.

And here I thought the folks at NASA were just sitting back and reading computer printouts. It appears they have more to work through than first meets the eye.

Latest news releases on the Phoenix Mars Lander also state that a “nagging” circuit problem was fixed. I wonder if that was the problem that caused them to have to move to the backup operating system shortly after arrival on the Martian surface.

There have been concerns expressed, and questions asked, ever since the Phoenix Lander entered the Martian atmosphere. The results we are seeing show us that the mission is proceeding on target, even with minor problems that have appeared.

Just another day in a rainy Paradise. Smiles. ET

Phoenix Mars Mission – Home

Photo credits: NASA