LOS ANGELES — The Phoenix spacecraft has tasted Martian water for the first time, scientists reported Thursday. By melting icy soil in one of its lab instruments, the robot confirmed the presence of frozen water lurking below the Martian permafrost. Until now, evidence of ice in Mars’ north pole region has been largely circumstantial.
In 2002, the orbiting Odyssey spacecraft spied what looked like a reservoir of buried ice. After Phoenix arrived, it found what looked like ice in a hard patch underneath its landing site and changes in a trench indicated some ice had turned to gas when exposed to the sun.
Scientists popped open champagne when they received confirmation Wednesday that the soil contained ice.
“We’ve now finally touched it and tasted it,” William Boynton of the University of Arizona said during a news conference in Tucson on Thursday. “From my standpoint, it tastes very fine.”
Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25 on a three-month hunt to determine if it could support life. It is conducting experiments to learn whether the ice ever melted in the red planet’s history that could have led to a more hospitable environment. It is also searching for the elusive organic-based compounds essential for simple life forms to emerge.
The ice confirmation earlier this week was accidental. After two failed attempts to deliver ice-rich soil to one of Phoenix’s eight lab ovens, researchers decided to collect pure soil instead. Surprisingly, the sample was mixed with a little bit of ice, said Boynton, who heads the oven instrument.
Researchers were able to prove the soil had ice in it because it melted in the oven at 32 degrees _ the melting point of ice _ and released water molecules. Plans called for baking the soil at even higher temperatures next week to sniff for carbon-based compounds…
When can I move to Mars? I’d gladly go! Seriously, this is a major discovery, and not just your average UFO sighting. This also gives some real possibility to future missions and to the whole science field in general. Here’s a very enthusiastic sitting ovation from my computer!!! Congratulations to all who worked on this mission.
On Earth, perchlorate is a natural and manmade contaminant sometimes found in soil and groundwater. It is the main ingredient in solid rocket fuel and can be found in fireworks, pyrotechnics and other explosives. It’s unclear how perchlorate forms on Mars or how much there is of it. NASA is investigating whether the substance could have gotten there by contamination before launch. Phoenix used another fuel, hydrazine, to power its thrusters and land on the red planet on May 25.
Theory: Could that substance (perchlorate) have “rained on Mars” as the Phoenix, or any other crafts (re: Rovers) landed?
Was perchlorate used in the rover’s fuel for decent, or even launch?
We think of Mars as a “clean slate” or a type of “clean room environment”, but the more craft we send there, the more contaminants **we **in turn bring to the surface (whether by particles that were on the units before launch from earth, or the particles/elements/misc. that it picked up along it’s journey **to **the red planet.
We can’t rule out the possibility that this, or any other substance that is found on Mars ended up there because it “hitched a ride” on of our probes we sent there.
Also, If we find more of it there, and find that it is a native element to Mars & we know that it is a basic element of making rocket fuel, could it be mined to make that in the near/far future?
(Please let’s not get into that argument about not strip mining another planet like we do our own. It’s just a suggestion, or question of mine about the feasibility that it *COULD *be done, not that it SHOULD. lol)