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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

9/27/2013 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Discovery could be useful for future astronauts

The popular imagination holds that the planet mars is a dusty, arid place. That has been proved otherwise with the latest soil samples taken from the red Planet, which suggest the soil there is verdant with water. "If you think about a cubic foot of this dirt and you just heat it a little bit . a few hundred degrees - you'll actually get off about two pints of water . like two water bottles you'd take to the gym," Curiosity researcher Laurie Leshin says.

The amount of water chemically bound into the particles of Martian soil is only one tidbit of information concerning the early exploits of the rover.

The amount of water chemically bound into the particles of Martian soil is only one tidbit of information concerning the early exploits of the rover.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/27/2013 (6 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Water, mars, Curiosity, NASA, application


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In fact, there is a surprising amount of water bound up in the soil of Mars. A analysis done on the U.S. space agency's Curiosity rover. Found in a small pinch of dirt scooped up from the ground, the most abundant vapor detected was good old H2O.

Scientists say that this could be a useful resource for future astronauts, they say. "And this dirt on Mars is interesting because it seems to be about the same everywhere you go. If you are a human explorer, this is really good news because you can quite easily extract water from almost anywhere."

The amount of water chemically bound into the particles of Martian soil is only one tidbit of information concerning the early exploits of the rover.

While some of this information has been reported previously at science meetings and in NASA press conferences, the formal write-up gives an opportunity for the wider scientific community to examine the detail.

Leshin's and colleagues' publication concerns a sample analysis done at "Rocknest," a pile of wind-blown sand and silt about 400 millimeter from where Curiosity touched down on the floor of Gale Crater in August 2012.

Using its tools to pick up, sieve and deliver a smidgeon of this Martian dirt to the Sam instrument hidden away inside the belly of the vehicle, the sam has the ability to cook samples and to identify any gases that are released. These products are diagnostic of the different components that make up the soil.

Curiosity detected an enormous proportion of carbon dioxide, which is most likely the consequence of carbonate minerals being present in the sample. Carbonates form in the presence of water.

Oxygen and chlorine was also detected, and is a signal that many had expected to see following similar studies in Mars' "High Arctic" by NASA's Phoenix lander in 2008.

"[We think these] are break-down products from a mineral called perchlorate, and that's there at about a half-a-percent in the soil," Leshin says.

"If the water was the good news for the astronauts, this is the bad news. Perchlorate actually interferes with thyroid function, so it could be a problem if humans were to ingest some of the fine dust on Mars. It's just something we need to know about now so we can plan for it later."

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