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Mars NASA Space Science

NASA Announces Water Found On Mars 281

s.bots writes "Straight from the horse's mouth, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has identified water in a soil sample. Hopefully this exciting news will boost interest in the space program and further exploration of the Martian surface." Clearly, this has long been suspected, but now Martian water's been (in the words of William Boynton, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer) "touched and tasted."
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NASA Announces Water Found On Mars

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  • Re:"So what?" (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phairdon ( 1158023 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:49PM (#24424307)

    It's unfortunate that Joe Public is such an idiot. Yes, he doesn't benefit directly from space exploration, but he has many indirect benefits.

    You have to be seriously ignorant to not see the benefit of the space program.

    Ever used a cordless power tool? A smoke detector? Modern water filtration? Infrared thermometer? Edible toothpaste (this one is now used for baby toothpaste and we probably all used it as babies)? Composite forceps in the delivery room? Global communications?

    Here is a kid friendly site that Joe Public might be able to comprehend []

  • Re:Water? Big Deal! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @05:56PM (#24424447) Homepage
    They found crude [] oil [] components [] on Titan [].
  • Re:Are we surprised? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:03PM (#24424541)

    "After all, water can only exist in a limited number of states under a limited number of conditions."

    I am sure that water can be found in ALL 50 states to some extent, although it would be mostly salty in Utah, and Hawaii, and frozen (most of the time) in Alaska.

  • Re:Mars... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) * on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:04PM (#24424569) Homepage

    On the other hand, Spirit and Opportunity *are* running around on Mars.

    For very low values of "running".

    The rover has a top speed on flat hard ground of 5 centimeters (2 inches) per second [].

    Which is approximately 0.1 miles per hour.

  • Re:Water? Big Deal! (Score:3, Informative)

    by volcanopele ( 537152 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:08PM (#24424621)
    No, crude oil has not been confirmed as a major surface component. The confirmation of surface liquids on Titan (in lakes previously observed by the ISS and RADAR instruments) demonstrate the presence of liquid natural gas, not crude oil.
  • by katakomb ( 1328459 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:18PM (#24424789)

    Just to reiterate a point that a few others have made: the presence of water ice at the surface of Mars has been understood since at least the 1970's for high latitudes. This goes for parts of the polar caps (also made up of CO2 ice), and the seasonal frosts that are known to coat the very study area visited by the Phoenix lander.

    Here's a snippet from an abstract of an article from 1982 (Journal of Geophysical Research, 87:367-370): "A new reflectance spectrum of the Martian north polar cap is analyzed, and it shows water ice absorption features. This evidence confirms the result of the Viking IRTM and MAWD experiments, which indicate that the north residual polar cap of Mars is composed of water ice during the season observed." The Viking 2 lander directly saw seasonal frost in the late 70's, as the Phoenix lander will in the coming months: []

    The Phoenix results are new in that ice has been directly confirmed for shallow regolith ("soil") materials at the Phoenix site (as opposed to spectroscopically identified from orbit or from the Earth). This is a nice and important result, but is not a huge surprise (the site is known to be seasonally coated with water-ice frosts, and its sediments are distributed in a polygonal pattern that is analogous to what we see at high latitudes on Earth where freeze-thaw action dominates).

    Phoenix is a great mission, but let's also give due credit to earlier workers.

  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:41PM (#24425089) Homepage

    Well, no, the air pressure at the top of Everest is about 300mb. I suppose that's "comparable" to 7mb if by that you mean "one and a half orders of magnitude bigger than". The Martian air pressure does vary quite a bit (maybe +/- 2mb) seasonally as CO2 at the polar caps sublimates or freezes. It's higher also at the bottom of Mariner Valley, but I couldn't find a reliable number for it.

  • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:43PM (#24425117)
    Overall, we're not surprised. Scientists have been pretty sure there was subsurface ice there for several years based on ground-penetrating radar on one of the orbiters. Confirming this was a major goal of Phoenix. There weren't a lot of other good explanations for all that hydrogen detected by radar, but that still wasn't considered proof. Nor even were the images of the bright, ice-like material uncovered earlier in the Phoenix mission. Also, we already knew for quite a while about water vapor on Mars, but the next question was about large quantities of surface water.

    The Phoenix team was a little surprised by exactly how it occurred, however. Because ice sublimates on Mars once exposed, they had to get the sample into the TEGA oven relatively quickly. It ended up being even stickier than previous samples (possibly due to melting of the ice by friction from the rasp) and didn't fall properly from the scoop into the oven. By the time the results were received, analyzed, and a conclusion reached, they considered the sample already spoiled, but because some likely made it into the oven, the oven was also "contaminated," which affects the accuracy of measuring relative abundance. So they managed to dump the "ruined" sample into the oven to compare it to the last "ruined" sample, but found there was water in it anyways. Unfortunately, because of the sublimation, this still doesn't give them the relative abundance. It also, as far as I know, was only inferred so far by calorimetry. In the next day or two, they should get spectroscopy results back, which will be even better verification.

    Because of all this, they're going to spend some more time practicing and polishing their delivery method so they can get a truly fresh sample into the ovens. They've got 6 empty ovens left, although there might be a problem with the doors on some or all of them.
  • Re:Water? Big Deal! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:51PM (#24425207)

    Not sure why you got modded as "troll".
    "Wrong" would be appropriate.

  • Nobody 'knew' is was there. Now we do.

    Yes, we could ahve people on mars by now, but there isn't a real budget for it, so we send the specific mission robots.

    When we are ready to build something their, we will send people.

  • Re:Water? Big Deal! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @06:53PM (#24425239) Homepage
    That's why I said crude oil COMPONENTS. Crude oil is a complex mixture of aliphatic hydrocarbons, mainly methane CH4 thru n-Tetracontane C40H82. Everything from methane to asphalt tars are in there.
  • No, there where ice absorption features, and indications.

    Phoenix also found out that there are nutrients in the soil.
    Yes, the soil could grow plants.

    This is huge, plant supporting material found on another planet.

  • Re:Mars... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <knuckles@d a n t i> on Thursday July 31, 2008 @07:38PM (#24425729)

    You are confusing the roman catholic church with your run-off-the-mill protestant crackpot from the US. The roman catholic church has stated numerous times that they see no conflict between either extraterrestrial life or evolution and the church. E.g., []

  • Re:Hurray! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:00PM (#24425927) Journal

    Something like keeping people alive in space for years rather than months is the REAL issue.

    You mean like this [], this, or perhaps []this [] (to count just a few among literally thousands of projects dedicated to accomplishing exactly that)?

    Incidentally, the Russians have a HUGE volume of data on long-duration spaceflight, for periods that could conceivably cover an exploratory trip to Mars.

    ...and if you induce gravity for the majority of the trip (e.g. w/ centripetal motion), you actually discard the majority of the problems. The rest involves shielding from gamma/cosmic rays, taking along enough supplies (but water in sufficient quantities there would alleviate the majority of the burden - air, fuel, and water would take up the vast majority of the load anyway if you had to bring it all along).


  • Re:Hurray! (Score:5, Informative)

    by quax ( 19371 ) on Friday August 01, 2008 @01:29AM (#24428807)

    Satellite surface penetrating radar measurements indicate a layer of almost pure ice with depth of up to 1.8 km in places. Lateral spherical distribution of what is most likely water ice with about 1000 km diameter has been observed in March 2007 around the south pole.

    Source (Sorry is German): []

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982