Science

NASA Phoenix, water on Mars, discovery water Mars
NASA/AP
Scientists believe NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander exposed bits of ice while recently digging
a trench in the soil of the Martian arctic. (AP)

Examining the Meaning of the Mars Water Discovery

August 05, 2008 08:26 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Now that NASA has confirmed the presence of water ice on Mars, scientists are considering what the discovery really means.

30-Second Summary

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NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander has confirmed the presence of water ice in a soil sample it analyzed on the Red Planet.

William Boynton of the University of Arizona said, “We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”

Mission chief Peter Smith said scientists are just getting data back on the Mars ice samples. With the information they collect, they hope to answer questions like: “Is this a habitable zone on Mars?”

Researchers are checking for organic materials, or “building blocks of life,” in the ice. “The detection of organics on Mars would not necessarily mean there is life. It would just mean that carbon and other molecules that make up life as we know it were present,” explains Space.com.

University of Colorado geologist Bruce Jakosky said, “Organics would be the home run or the grand slam of the mission.”
 
Because the present Mars mission has been successful so far, NASA is extending funding for the research project from late August through Sept. 30. “Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars,” said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Headline Links: Surprises on Mars

Historical Context: Interest in Mars grows

Opinion & Analysis: Will we ever discover life on Mars?

Related Topics: Water on the moon; NASA’s birthday

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