We suppose a “surprising” amount of water on Mars would be “more than none”, but let’s get more specific. NASA’s Curiosity Rover has discovered water in Martian soil, according to five papers from NASA scientists published in Science. How much water? About two pints of liquid water in each cubic foot of Martian soil tested. The water molecules comprise about 2% of Martian soil. Consider us surprised.
We’ll let Gizmodo explain how they made the discovery, because it’s four in the morning and blockquotes are my jam.
Curiosity picked up and sieved a scoop of soil from the surface before dropping it into an on-board oven. “We heat [the soil] up to 835C and drive off all the volatiles and measure them,” [Laurie Leshin] said. “We have a very sensitive way to sniff those and we can detect the water and other things that are released.” [Gizmodo]
Leshin awesomely added, “When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.” She also tells Gizmodo that NASA didn’t find evidence of any organic molecules in the soil, but they plan to drill into areas that are more amenable to preserving evidence of life.
This news comes almost exactly one year after the Curiosity Rover made the first direct observation of water-transported gravel on Mars, a sign of a dried-up riverbed that was once at least ankle deep in flowing water. It may be time to get our asses to Mars.
(Banner picture via NASA and Ed Yong.)