Although Mars is considered a dry planet, scientists have always hoped to find evidence of water there. Until now, though, there has been no proof. However, the Mars Curiosity rover just analyzed its first sample of Martian soil from the planet’s surface and discovered that about two percent of it is made up of water. That’s right, folks — there really is water on Mars!
Curiosity comes equipped with its own scientific lab. It scooped up the sample of Martian soil and then used its on-board equipment, which includes several spectrometers, to analyze the sample. This equipment allowed the rover to heat up the sample and break it down to find its chemical components and figure out the ratios of just how much of each is present. One of those components was water. Curiosity also discovered chlorine and oxygen in the soil, as well.
Because Mars’ surface layer is a mixture of soil created by its dust storms, scientists believe this sample is representative of the entire planet’s surface. This would mean that water is readily available anywhere on the planet. Obviously, Curiosity will need to do more work and collect more soil, but scientists expect to see similar results in each sample.
Although this discovery leads back to the question of whether Mars has ever sustained life, the presence of water on the planet could also further future Mars exploration. Having easy access to water on the planet’s surface makes it more habitable for humans who want to travel there.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Dean Laurie Leshin said, “When we send people [to Mars], they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.” This is obviously good news for future participants in the Mars One Project.