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July 31, 2008

Water on Mars Confirmed

Neat:

): As PopularMechanics.com first reported here, scientists from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and Texas A&M have just officially announced at a press conference that soil samples taken by Phoenix on Mars is water ice.

"We expected to find water—hat's why we came here, but we're very pleased to see we landed right on top of water ice," says Peter Smith, the principal investigator for Phoenix at the University of Arizona.

The a hard, solid substance discovered 2 in. under the soil beneath the lander is "definitely" a solid layer of water ice.

Two new trenches will be carved and explored for different kinds of ice. "We also hope to answer the question ... if this is a habitable zone on Mars," Smith said, adding that he hopes to guide future missions to search for life where the Phoenix lander is located.

And now the search for life:

The Phoenix mission will be extended, but team leaders aren’t sure how long the lander will last, so they’re gathering as much information and evidence on Mars as possible. "We're learning as we go along the best way to heat the soil ... and we have ways of fine tuning the instrument to look for organic molecules at the expense of other molecules," Boyton said. "It will be very helpful to have more time ... to use all of TEGA's 8 ovens [to heat samples for measurement in a spectrometer]."

So the hunt for organics on Mars has officially begun.

Oddly, NASA made no mention of the fact that they also discovered a human bootprint on Mars:

"We just do shit like that to fuck with people," a NASA team leader explained.


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