News

Don't Suppose There's Any Crude Oil Up There …

Published on August 1, 2008
by John Paczkowski

Six years after the Mars Odyssey first discovered evidence of water on Mars, the Phoenix Lander has confirmed it. On Thursday afternoon, a clump of soil pulled from the Red Planet’s frozen arctic sands and brought aboard the spacecraft for testing revealed what appeared to be a small bit of ice. Heated to 32 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix’s oven, it released water vapor. “We have water,” said researcher William Boynton of the University of Arizona. “We’ve now finally touched it and tasted it–and from my standpoint it tastes very fine.”

With the presence of water on the planet confirmed, NASA has decided to extend the Phoenix Lander’s 90-day mission by five weeks. “We have lots more to explore within reach of our robotic arm,” said Peter Smith, Phoenix’s principal investigator from the University of Arizona at Tucson. Michael Meyer, chief scientist of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA, added, “We’ve gotten to the point where we’re pretty sure we found water, and determined it was H2O. One of the things (with upcoming missions will be) moving away from finding water to a search for life.”

[Image credit: Ellen Roper]

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