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)  
Tags: , , , ,