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NASA’s Curiosity Discovers Water Molecules In Martian Soil

by Brandon Russell | September 28, 2013September 28, 2013 9:00 am PDT

nasa-curiosity-rover-self-portrait

The suggestion that Mars never had water is officially a myth. A new series of NASA papers, published in the journal Science, says each cubic foot of Martian soil contains nearly two pints of liquid water. More specifically, Curiosity discovered water molecules bound to other minerals in the Red Planet’s soil, and there’s quite a bit, too—about two percent of Mars’ soil is made up of water.

While the discovery confirms the existence of water, it’s not freely accessible, meaning we can’t just stroll up there and start drinking Martian water. Instead, astronauts (colonizers?) would need to actually heat the soil in order to free the water molecules—not exactly convenient, or  practical, but that’s not the point. The mere idea of mankind taking residence on Mars no longer sounds so outlandish.

Curiosity apparently made the discovery by sieving a scoop of Martian soil into an onboard oven, and then analyzing the volatiles that were released. Recently, more evidence came out to suggest Mars once had a habitable environment, and maybe even copious amounts of water; one researcher even said that water may have been safe enough for humans to drink.

Throughout Curiosity’s short journey, the rover has found plenty to suggest Mars may have once had running water, and possibly even existing water underground, though more research still needs to be done. NASA’s findings stem from data gathered during Curiosity’s first 100 days on Mars, so there’s still much more information to go through. Scientists do admit that Mars is still largely dry, though Curiosity is still hot on the trail for more water evidence.

So, yes, water exists in Martian soil, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon Earth just yet. The discovery also found there’s about 0.5 percent of perchlorate in Mars’ soil, which is toxic enough to impede human thyroid function. Still, the discovery is immense and alters our perception of Mars. What else is out there that we have yet to discover?

Space

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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