Curiosity Rover Finds Water on Mars

Posted September 27th, 2013 at 6:33 pm (UTC-4)

This is the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments suite, prior to its installation on the Curiosity rover. (NASA Goddard)

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments, prior to its installation on Curiosity. (NASA)

The first scoop of Martian soil analyzed by Curiosity Rover’s built-in laboratory has revealed a high amount of water in the soil, according to NASA.

“One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil,” said Curiosity researcher Laurie Leshin, of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically.”

Researchers made their findings using Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) unit, which includes three sophisticated instruments: a gas chromotograph, mass spectrometer, and tunable laser spectrometer.

SAM allowed the scientists to identify a wide range of chemical compounds and to calculate the ratios of different isotopes of the sample’s key elements.

The same soil sample, when heated to 835 degrees Celsius, showed significant amounts of carbon dioxide, oxygen and various sulfur compounds.

The heated collection of Martian dust, dirt and fine soil, gathered by the rover’s scoop at a location called Rocknest, also revealed a compound containing chlorine and oxygen, which the scientists think is likely chlorate or perchlorate.

The Curiosity's scoop grabed a sample of Martian surface material and delivered it to it's built-in laboratory called SAM. This is a file photo of some trenches Curiosity dug in October 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Some of the trenches Curiosity’s scoop dug in Mars’ surface, Oct. 2012. (NASA)

Up until this finding, the scientists had thought those materials only existed in the high-latitude areas of Mars. By finding them at Curiosity’s current location near the equator of Mars, the researchers say that perhaps they could be found all over the planet.

Since they are formed in the presence of water, the carbonate materials that were found in their tested sample, according to the researchers, also provided clues to Martian water.

According to Leshin, the results of her team’s research shed light on the composition of the planet’s surface, while offering direction for future research.

“We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars,” said Leshin. “When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.”

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

9 responses to “Curiosity Rover Finds Water on Mars”

  1. And no life whatsoever, which is a probabilistic impossibility, even if all the elements and conditions exist, for terrestrial life.

  2. brown says:

    it was great reseach thanks

  3. Larry Smith says:

    This is very good.tell me how dose this help us? Will we be able to live on mars?

  4. Emmanuel I. Ebube says:

    Of course there is water on Mars! And organic matter too. How else do we imagine that planet Earth got its water in the first place—-and life-forming organic mater? When Mars, or a Mars-sized object if we still prefer this version, impacted with earth some half a billion years ago it deposited these life-forming materials on impact. the impact also displaced earth to a new weird orbit were the oddity called living creatures (humans inclusive) thrive. Request to read more in my book. if astronomer Bode’s algorithm for determining planetary solar distances was not forget or shall we say doctored, it would reveal that planets Earth and Neptune have orbits different from there original natural orbits due to collision-impact displacements. the Earth-mars pair is similar to the Neptune-Uranus pair. each suffered from impact by an object from the far recesses of outer space laden with strange non-solar system material, such as life-forming matter out of which we evolved. one wonders what amazing mysteries the Neptune-Uranus pair may yet hold!————–Ebube

  5. Peter says:

    The first sign of life on another planet will not be when we find water, it will be when we find beer.

  6. kwint says:

    what an exciting news! human make a big step on the exploration outer space!

  7. TBobo says:

    What a great discovery….but wouldn’t there be any natural disasters and most of all sea level rise?

  8. johnzgt says:

    Water found on Mars makes it likely to find the evidence of Martian life .