CONFIRMED: Water on Mars

TUCSON, July 31 (UPI) — Scientists confirmed Thursday that water, considered an essential building block of life, does indeed exist on the planet Mars.An analysis of a soil sample collected by the Phoenix lander detected traces of water, which exists as ice just below the red soil on the Martian surface.

“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,” scientist William Boynton said in a written statement released by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Lab, “but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”

Boynton is lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer team based at the University of Arizona.

Details of the composition of the water were not immediately released. The sample came from a 2-inch deep trench carefully carved by the lander’s robotic arm.

The presence of water is one of more dramatic discoveries made by the Phoenix since it touched down on Mars near the pole May 24. NASA announced it had secured funding to extend the Phoenix mission through Sept. 30.

More here: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/

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54 thoughts on “CONFIRMED: Water on Mars

  1. Anthony –
    Since there has been so much discussion of predictive modeling (like that used to support the recent Supreme Court decision) I thought this post by Steve M would be a good point for discussion. It is, of course, unrelated to the Martian Ice. (Marvin the Martian keeps it frozen, because liquid water would cause an army to sprout… 😉
    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=3361
    This should be a major discussion point in EPA rule making…

  2. Water on the desert planet. Yes, but it’s still cold as hell!
    Don’t see Mars becoming a tourist hot spot any time soon.
    Congrats to NASA, JPL, & the fine folk at Arizona for all that well done hard work.

  3. Well, NASA and the press have been saying for weeks that they have “evidence” for water on Mars based upon the disappearing chunks. But disappearing chunks is only evidence of something disappearing. It was just a theory that the something was water. I’m glad they finally confirmed it with real tests, but it shows the same confusion between theory and fact that plagues science in general and global warming theory in particular.
    Of course, we’ve known that there is water in comets for a long time, so I fail to see why this is such a “dramatic” discovery. It’s not the first time we’ve discovered water that’s not on the earth. It’s really all about trying to find little green men. And they virtually equate the discovery of extraterrestrial water with extraterrestrial life. I mean, you can’t find a single press release about the discovery of water without mentioning that it’s probably necessary for life. They haven’t been able to find signs of ET so they continually talk about the “water necessary for life” and “earth-like planets”. SETI isn’t dead – it’s about all that NASA does these days when they’re not manipulating climate data.
    I think it’s about time NASA does something useful like mining the moon. When countries sent out explorers around they world, a big part was to find useful things like gold and other valuable commodities.

  4. I never would have guessed. I always thought that the Grand Canyon like features on Mars were just Hollywood cg effects.
    There is only one small step required to evolve from 3 atom H20 molecules to 10,000,000 atom DNA molecules. Just ask any liberal – they know the truth about all things scientific.
    If you want to test this out, try mixing graphite with distilled water. By morning you will be growing dinosaurs and palm trees in your bathtub. Maybe even Roswell aliens.

  5. The first ice melted by humans on Mars.
    Call please:
    Dr. James E. Hansen
    Columbia University
    750 Armstrong Hall
    2880 Broadway
    New York, NY 10025 USA
    Phone: (212) 678-5500
    I LOVE http://www.surfacestations.org
    Reply: applause~charles the moderator

  6. I don’t think profitable ventures are in the realm of possibility for now. There’s nothing on the surface of the moon, for example, but silicates – it’s never had the volcanic or tectonic activity that has brought interesting minerals to the surface on earth. Not to mention that the energy transportation costs make anything you could possibly find cost prohibitive to send back.
    One possibility would be compounds that can only be manufactured in a zero-g environment, but even those, if valuable ones are found, could best be made in some kind of earth orbiting space dock. Why waste the energy to go 180,000 miles further than you need to go?
    All our yearnings notwithstanding, there’s really no good reason to go back to the moon and no reason to send anything but robots to mars. Look at it this way – Antarctica is far more hospitable to life (at least it has a breathable atmosphere!) and we don’t do much with it. Mars is a cool place to play with some fine new shiny toys, but that’s about it.

  7. “We have water. and we have tasted it.” How was this magical transport of water from Mars to the Earth done?

  8. Fernando:
    O onde fica você mora no Brazil? (I did not use translation software so that may be mangled).

  9. Dear Jeez:
    I live in Sao Paulo:
    I followed the fight every day. is very difficult for me put technical contributions in colloquial language (english). and has many people qualify.
    best regards

  10. It is a great scientific result.
    The Phoenix team released another very interesting set of images a few days ago. The ground underneath the Lander has deformed since the landing. A really amazing before and after at the link below.
    (A pebble in the middle of the image moves, another pebble appears out of the ground at the top-left-centre, cracks appear, and there is a very odd object at the bottom right corner which needs to be identified.)
    http://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/snow_queen.gif

  11. I don’t think profitable ventures are in the realm of possibility for now. There’s nothing on the surface of the moon, for example, but silicates – it’s never had the volcanic or tectonic activity that has brought interesting minerals to the surface on earth. Not to mention that the energy transportation costs make anything you could possibly find cost prohibitive to send back.

    If I’m not mistaken, there have been only 6 Apollo missions that landed on the moon. They collected a few rocks from the surface of six places on the moon. Without setting up a base and really exploring, there’s no telling what valuable minerals may be there. That’s my point. Maybe there’s a huge diamond deposit; or gold; or platinum. Who knows based on a few hundred pounds of rocks dug up with a shovel? The payback really cannot be calculated without knowing what’s there. Hey, maybe they’ll find a new mineral that will absorb 1,000,000,000 times it’s own weight of carbon dioxide! We can bring it back to earth and suck it all out of the atmosphere and save the planet! Of course, maybe that’s the reason the moon has no atmosphere. In fact, I think the lack of atmosphere on the moon is evidence for this mineral. 😉

  12. Last year there was a great conversation on RC about terraforming Mars.
    The crew over there believes that a 0.00007 change in atmospheric CO2 concentration will make earth uninhabitable, and they also believe that we can turn Mars into a tropical paradise.
    Geniuses, no doubt. I wonder how many of them made it past 3rd grade science?

  13. NASA occasionally demonstrates thet they still can do what they are supposed to do. Any bets on whether Phoenix survives the winter? Spirit and Opportunity were supposed to run for 90 days. Years later, still ticking.
    However, I’m staying here until they find some Bourbon.

  14. Richard Wright, forget water. Astronomers have discovered enormous clouds of the far more important ALCOHOL in the galaxy. Now, there is some good news.

  15. Richar Wright, as I tell people, we, as humanity, have the whole solar system as our resource base; at our finger-tips. And by the time we run out of that stuff, we will have moved on to the local stellar systems, etc.

  16. Patrick wrote:

    Last year there was a great conversation on RC about terraforming Mars.
    The crew over there believes that a 0.00007 change in atmospheric CO2 concentration will make earth uninhabitable, and they also believe that we can turn Mars into a tropical paradise.

    Here’s an idea: Let NASA terraform Mars to prove their global climate models correct. Once they work out the bugs on Mars, then we can let them fool around with Earth. Mars is the perfect test bed – planetary engineering with no worries since there is no life there.

  17. Fernando, I’m in Rio once or twice a year, so who knows, maybe I’ll make to SP sometime and we can split a carafe de Brahma?

  18. It is quite possible that life exists miles under the surface deep in the rock just as it does on Earth. The constant bath of UV light over millions of years has probably sterilized the surface (and the top several feet of it, in fact) but life could be happily chugging along in the rocks a half-mile down.

  19. You’d think this would be bigger news? I haven’t heard much about this in the media. This was the primary mission of this rover correct? One of the most important scientific discovers ever, with mind boggling implications. The next obvious step is to find life, or evidence of life. I’d like to think Mars had life at one point, especially if it had liquid water.

  20. Can anyone explain for what reason the trench was dug “carefully”? Was it to avoid disturbing the sensitive local fauna?

  21. A few weeks ago I tried to find out how much greenhouse effect there was on Mars. Should be easy. 95% CO2 atmosphere, no water vapor. Good analog as the axial tilt is about the same , length of day very similar and no oceans to complicate matters. I’ll leave it as an exercise to see if anyone else can get a sensible answer.
    The answer I got was that CO2 on its own is a miserable greenhouse gas and there’s about 30 times as much of it over every square meter of Martian surface as there is on Earth.

  22. I’m with Richard Wright in not finding this very dramatic. So much evidence for water ice on Mars has built up over the years it hardly seems suprising that you can land a probe on a spot where radar has shown there is ice below the surface and then find some. Do you remember this picture from ESA’s Mars Express in 2005? http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Mars_Express/SEMGKA808BE_0.html ?
    What else does Phoenix do? I will be very disappointed if the only result of this expensive expedition is a confirmation of something we knew anyway…

  23. Dodgy Geezer:
    Those are some great pics of a Martian crater with water. Thanx for posting! [The enlarged links really show some good detail].

  24. It has been nearly 12 years since NASA discovered life on Mars.
    http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/marslife.html
    A group of scientists led by David McKay of NASA’s Johnson Space Center published an article in the 16 August 1996 issue of Science magazine announcing the discovery of evidence for primitive bacterial life on Mars.
    One theory is that martian bacteria escaped the lab, and is now affecting the judgement of some top scientists. Some odd changes happened to NASA temperature data shortly thereafter. Perhaps the conquering of earth is more subtle than H. G. Wells imagined?

  25. It has been exactly 100 years since the great astronomer Percival Lowell published his work proving that there is an intelligent agrarian society on Mars. (Percival Lowell later led the effort to discover NASA’s recently demoted planet, formerly known as Pluto.)
    http://books.google.com/books?id=OsIKAAAAIAAJ&dq=Mars+As+the+Abode+of+Life&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=chk4tj-FSn&sig=kOhrWXYrCOMNfXDEGPjClU_Zx1w&oi=book_result&ct=result&hl=en#PPA184,M1
    Sadly, the Martians drove too many SUVS, and turned the place into a burning hot desert wasteland. Too bad Nancy Pelosi wasn’t there to save the planet.

  26. Are we excitied about finding water on Mars because we might find life there, or are we excited about finding water on Mars so that we can go and settle the planet and make it our own? Depends on your perspective, and age. I would bet older people would see it as an oppertiuity to colonize the place. ( I’m one of them)

  27. The real desire to find water on Mars is to find life. The present theory is that wherever liquid water exists, life is likely to exist (assuming appropriate minerals, energy source, and adequate chance). Thus life will likely be abundant in the Universe; mankind will not be unique; and the God Hypothesis will be less likely.
    However, there is a catch. It any life on Mars is similar to life on earth then there is a strong possibly that life originated on earth and was transported to mars by asteroids or vice versa. Thus the God Hypothesis reappears.
    There are other sources of liquid water in the solar system. I expect many of them to be visited to prove life = water + energy source + appropriate minerals + adequate chance. If found, my bet is they will related to earth life.
    Let the search for water in the solar system begin! Place your bets please!

  28. Well, looks like Edgar Rice Burroughs was right after all. John Carter would be very happy.

  29. Gosh, NASA scientists can find water on Mars millions of miles away with their satellites and ground rovers but they doubt the data of the temperature of the earth from satellites circling above… weird…

  30. Paul (22:02:54) :
    ‘Can anyone explain for what reason the trench was dug “carefully”? Was it to avoid disturbing the sensitive local fauna?’
    I hear it was do to the M’s EPA regulations after two years of filing paperwork!

  31. Thus life will likely be abundant in the Universe; mankind will not be unique; and the God Hypothesis will be less likely.

    That doesn’t follow at all. The existence of God in no way depends on earth being the sole repository of life. God exists whether or not we choose to believe in him. He would exist if no other life existed in the universe as He did before he created it. And if He chose to create it many times over, that does not affect His existence either. On the other hand, the nature of the life as we know it speaks strongly for the existence of a creator, while science is at a complete and utter loss to explain the origin of life. The discovery of life on another planet will not help explain its origin.

  32. “Can anyone explain for what reason the trench was dug “carefully”? Was it to avoid disturbing the sensitive local fauna?’
    I hear it was do to the M’s EPA regulations after two years of filing paperwork!”
    Actually is had to be dug a certain way because OSHA was looking over their shoulder so there would be no cave in.

  33. Thank God!
    Water in Mars confirmed.
    This may be our only chance to save humanity.
    Now when life bringing water have been found on the Red Plant, we should consider sending some breeding couples to Mars so that mankind might be able to survive, the apocalypse on Earth
    Of course the result for the apocalypse and mayhem down on Earth are caused by the imposed policies by the world’s politician’s effort in fighting the imaginary AGW disaster.

  34. Richard Wright,
    I was arguing from a scientific view. IF life (different from earth life) is NOT found where conditions are suitable for it then science is forced to believe that life is rare and perhaps UNIQUE. This would be quite embarrassing to those who think a Creator is not necessary. One may argue that life may exist that is not carbon based but one has then left the field of science.

  35. Hang on a second…
    “Details of the composition of the water were not immediately released”
    Um, this is just a guess here, but wouldn’t the composition of the water be… two molecules of hydrogen per molecule of oxygen?
    Then again, it’s possible there might be some sodium chloride or other impurities in there too… unless Martian water has a different composition.

  36. Pardon me, but at least as long as I have known about Mars I have been aware that it has polar ice caps. Since ice = frozen water, why is it such a discovery to find water in the soil in the form of, surprise, ice? Hence the quote: “An analysis of a soil sample collected by the Phoenix lander detected traces of water, which exists as ice just below the red soil on the Martian surface.” I mean, that’s a little like a farmer of 20 years holding a press conference to announce that he has made the astounding and dramatic discovery that chickens lay eggs. If they find Martians, then wake me up. But to say it’s a “discovery” that we found water on a planet with ice caps that is (in celestial terms) only a bit further from the Sun than we are is, at best, a loose use of the term. It’s more like a joke to me. What, does water on Mars prove there is extra-terrestrial life? I am missing the point of this so-called discovery.

  37. Bobby Lane,
    Since life is found almost everywhere on earth where water is found, some scientists assume it will be found elsewhere in the Solar System where water exists. If life is found that is genetically similar to earth life then no big deal; it could have originated here or vice versa or from some other common source. BUT if it is basically unrelated to earth life (by genetic comparison) then it would be strong evidence that earth life is not unique. It would be a strong blow to creationism. But the converse would be a strong blow to those who believe a Creator is not necessary.
    Personally, I believe no non-earth like life will be found elsewhere in the Solar System. Let’s send more probes and find out for sure. And BTW, I support SETI. The silence is very soothing.

  38. BUT if it is basically unrelated to earth life (by genetic comparison) then it would be strong evidence that earth life is not unique. It would be a strong blow to creationism.

    Why would that be a strong blow to creationism?

  39. Please let’s not get into a philosophy of creationism discussion on this site.~charles the moderator.

  40. Please let’s not get into a philosophy of creationism discussion on this site.~charles the moderator.

    Fine, although I thought it relevant to the post. So, what is the point of this post anyway?
    NASA’s little robot found water where they already knew water existed. It’s NASA that’s constantly proclaiming the world-shattering implications of water, i.e., where there’s water there’s a good change for life. So we got into a discussion of the origin of life which is the primary reason that NASA sent the little bugger there in the first place.
    http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4212/ch1.html
    That’s always been the reason ever since the Viking missions. It kind of sounds like you think the “debate is over” regarding the origin of life when in fact there is less science for the evolution of life from non-life then there is for AGW. Just a tad ironic for this blog. I recommend you get a copy of documentary, “Expelled! No Intelligence Allowed”. There are significant parallels between the effort to silence any discussion of Intelligent Design theory and the effort to silence AGW “deniers”.

  41. Richard Wright, your points acknowledged from here–I think the problem is that the particular issue of creationism or intelligent design is by definition a religious discussion. I don’t think Anthony wants religious discussions to occur here. Personally I have respect for them and I appreciate the fact that they are routinely stigmatized and stifled, but that still doesn’t mean they are appropriate here.
    I did not intend to stigmatize with my suggestion and I apologize if it reads that way. Debates about religion are so broad and emotional, that I believe it could quickly consume this site and make it lose focus.~charles the moderator

  42. jeez (13:59:13) :
    Richard Wright, your points acknowledged from here–I think the problem is that the particular issue of creationism or intelligent design is by definition a religious discussion.

    I don’t particularly want to get into a discussion of Intelligent Design theory or religion, either. But it’s (Intelligent Design’s) advocates have strived to frame it as a scientific theory; with some success, I think. I think it’s most accurate to look at all forays into origins as philosophy rather than science – including so-called evolutionary theories of origins.
    The most interesting thing about Intelligent Design theory is that is doesn’t really try to explain origins, per se. That is, it does not try to describe a mechanism for the origin of life like evolutionary theories do. Rather, it makes an argument that the complexity of life precludes it from having been caused by natural processes in the same way that we can look at an automobile and conclude that it did not originate through natural causes. One does not need to know how an automobile is built to know that it is built and not the result of the laws of chemistry and physics operating randomly over time. Even though the automobile’s operation does not violate any of those laws, they are not sufficient to cause it’s manufacture. Intelligent Design theory is an effort to formulate these principles scientifically.

  43. We are born.
    We will die.
    In between we wonder why
    (except in my case,
    when a cute redhead walks by).

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