NASA lander finds Mars water sample
NASA's Phoenix lander has identified water in a soil sample it collected from the surface of Mars. The scientific possibilities of this discovery are exciting.
Scientists will now be able to begin studying the sample to see whether the planet was ever, or is, habitable.
The craft previously had problems transferring samples from its robotic arm to the onboard lab for analysis.
The success and the good condition of the craft mean the mission will be extended until the end of September.
July 17: Water Used to be Abundant on Mars | - Now it is official. There used to be enough water on Mars to form lakes and rivers all over the planet just a few billion years ago. The Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched by NASA in 2005, located clay deposits, which could only form in the presence of water.
According to Scott Murchie, CRISM principal investigator at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Loboratory, "The Mars' water was not only prevalent and long lasting, but it also created a diverse wet environment."
John F. Mustard at Brown University, claims that water persisted in Mars in earlier days, between 4.6 and 3.8 billion years ago.
What is even more exciting for NASA scientists is that the Martian water reservoirs were not at all boiling and uninhabitable. The clay material analyzed by Reconnaissance Orbiter could also form only at relatively low temperatures, making life development possible.
One of the Brown researchers, John Mustard, said: "This is really exciting because we're finding dozens of sites where future missions can land to understand if Mars was ever habitable and if so, to look for signs of past life."
He continued: "The minerals present in Mars' ancient crust show a variety of wet environments. Water must have been creating minerals at depth to get the signatures we see.
"What does this mean for habitability? It's very strong. It wasn't this hot, boiling cauldron. It was a benign, water-rich environment for a long period of time."