by Jon Austin
August 24, 2015

from Express Website




NASA's rover found high levels of water

 under the Martian surface



UNEXPECTEDLY high levels of liquid water

have been found just a meter under the surface of Mars,

boosting the chances of the Red Planet

'once' housing life.



The historic discovery was made by NASA's Curiosity Rover - a robotic four-wheel drive space probe which is exploring in detail the surface of Mars - during its latest mission to forensically analyze the Martian floor.

The Rover will now turn its attention to looking for evidence of "ancient habitable environments" by examining layers of the lower Mount Sharp region of Mars, and hopefully evidence about how early Mars environments evolved from wetter to drier conditions.

Until this year it was believed Mars was too cold to hold any liquid water, but it emerged in April the Rover found Martian soil is damp with liquid brine, due to the presence of a salt that significantly lowers the freezing point of water.

But now this month the rover had found rocks just a meter below the surface with up to four times as much water content as previously found.

Previous observations by the probe’s stereo camera showed areas characteristic of old riverbed, with rounded pebbles indicating there were once flowing rivers up to one meter deep.

In April close-up images showed slanting expanses of sedimentary deposits, lying one above the other - the kind of deposits formed when large amounts of water flow down the slopes of a crater and meet stagnant water in the form of a lake.

Silica, monitored with Curiosity's laser-firing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, is a rock-forming chemical containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz.

Hydrogen in the ground beneath the rover is monitored by the rover's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument. It has been detected at low levels everywhere Curiosity has driven and is interpreted as the hydrogen in water molecules or hydroxyl ions bound within or absorbed onto minerals in the rocks and soil.

Igor Mitrofanov, DAN Principal Investigator of Space Research Institute, Moscow, said:

"The ground about one meter beneath the rover in this area holds three or four times as much water as the ground anywhere else Curiosity has driven during its three years on Mars."

The rover has spent several weeks in the Marias Pass region investigating a,

"geological contact zone" and rocks "unexpectedly high in silica and hydrogen content" indicating water bound to minerals in the ground.


Evidence of water was found

1m below the surface of Mars


Although liquid water is one of the requirements for life, it is not all that is needed, and the Red Planet is still considered a hostile environment and experts believe if life did once blossom on Mars, it probably died out more than a billion years ago.

A NASA spokesman said: "Curiosity successfully used its drill to sample a rock target called "Buckskin.

"Curiosity is carrying with it some of the sample powder drilled from Buckskin.


The rover's internal laboratories are analyzing the material. The mission's science team members seek to understand why this area bears rocks with significantly higher levels of silica and hydrogen than other areas the rover has traversed.

"The rover finished activities in Marias Pass on August 12, and headed onward up Mount Sharp, the layered mountain it reached in September 2014. In drives on Aug. 12, 13, 14 and 18, it progressed 433 feet (132 meters)."

Although it has been on Mars since September 2012, it has now clocked up only 6.9miles of travel in total.

Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp after two years of fruitfully investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and trekking to the mountain. It also seems no one is immune from the modern-day "selfie" craze today… not even a robot.

The rover used a seemingly invisible robotic arm to take this amazing low angle selfie after completing its latest mission on the Red Planet.





Multiple images were taken which were then stitched into a self-portrait at the drilling site.