Nasa’s Curiosity finds water in Martian soil

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Analysis of Martian soil by Nasa’s on going Mars Curiosity rover turned up a surprising amount of water, as well as a chemical that will make a search for life more complicated, scientists said on Thursday.
A scoop of fine-grained sand collected by the rover shortly after its August 2012 touchdown showed the soil contains about 2 per cent of water by weight.
“It was kind of a surprise to us,” said Curiosity scientist Laurie Leshin with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “If you take a cubic foot of that soil you can basically get two pints of water out it,” she said. “The soil on the surface is really a little like a sponge for sucking stuff out of the atmosphere.” Scientists announced last week that so far the planet’s atmosphere shows no signs of methane, a gas which on earth is strongly tied to life. Plumes of methane had been detected over the past decade by Mars orbiters and ground-based telescopes.
Methane, which should last about 200 years under Martian photo chemistry, also can be produced by geologic events. The water was found by heating a tiny bit of soil to 1,535 degrees Fahrenheit (835 degrees Celsius) inside Curiosity’s chemistry laboratory and analysing the resulting gas releases. Scientists found that in addition to water, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and other materials, the sands of Mars also contain reactive chemicals known as perchlorates.

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