by Jon Austin
August 24, 2015
NASA's rover found
high levels of water
UNEXPECTEDLY high levels of
have been found just a meter
under the surface of Mars,
boosting the chances of the Red
'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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
the drilling site.