Mars rover Curiosity finds water in first sample of planet surface

Sep 26, 2013
On Sol 84 (Oct. 31, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture this set of 55 high-resolution images, which were stitched together to create this full-color self-portrait of the rover at "Rocknest." Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

The first scoop of soil analyzed by the analytical suite in the belly of NASA's Curiosity rover reveals that fine materials on the surface of the planet contain several percent water by weight. The results were published today in Science as one article in a five-paper special section on the Curiosity mission. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Dean of Science Laurie Leshin is the study's lead author.

"One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil," said Leshin. "About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically." The sample also released significant carbon dioxide, oxygen, and when heated.

Curiosity landed in Gale Crater on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012, charged with answering the question "Could Mars have once harbored life?" To do that, Curiosity is the first rover on Mars to carry equipment for gathering and processing samples of rock and soil. One of those instruments was employed in the current research: Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) includes a gas chromotograph, a , and a spectrometer enabling it to identify a wide range of and determine the ratios of different isotopes of key elements.

"This work not only demonstrates that SAM is working beautifully on Mars, but also shows how SAM fits into Curiosity's powerful and comprehensive suite of ," said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator for SAM at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "By combining analyses of water and other volatiles from SAM with mineralogical, chemical, and geological data from Curiosity's other instruments, we have the most comprehensive information ever obtained on fines. These data greatly advance our understanding of surface processes and the action of water on Mars."

"This is the first solid sample that we've analyzed with the instruments on Curiosity. It's the very first scoop of stuff that's been fed into the analytical suite. Although this is only the beginning of the story, what we've learned is substantial," said Leshin, who co-wrote the article, titled "Volatile, Isotope and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover." Thirty-four researchers, all members of the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, contributed to the paper.

In this study, scientists used the rover's scoop to collect dust, dirt, and finely grained soil from a sandy patch known as "Rocknest." Researchers fed portions of the fifth scoop into SAM. Inside SAM, the "fines"—as the dust, dirt, and fine soil is known—were heated to 835 degrees Celsius.

Baking the sample also revealed a compound containing chlorine and oxygen, likely chlorate or perchlorate, previously known only from high-latitude locations on Mars. This finding at Curiosity's equatorial site suggests more global distribution. The analysis also suggests the presence of carbonate materials, which form in the presence of water.

In addition to determining the amount of the major gases released, SAM also analyzed ratios of isotopes of hydrogen and carbon in the released water and carbon dioxide. Isotopes are variants of the same chemical element with different numbers of neutrons, and therefore different atomic weights. SAM found that the ratio of isotopes in the soil is similar to that found in the atmosphere analyzed earlier by Curiosity, indicating that the surface soil has interacted heavily with the atmosphere.

"The isotopic ratios, including hydrogen-to-deuterium ratios and carbon , tend to support the idea that as the dust is moving around the planet, it's reacting with some of the gases from the atmosphere," Leshin said.

SAM can also search for trace levels of organic compounds. Although several simple organic compounds were detected in the experiments at Rocknest, they aren't clearly martian in origin. Instead, it is likely that they formed during the heating experiments, as the non-organic compounds in Rocknest samples reacted with terrestrial organics already present in the SAM instrument background.

"We find that organics are not likely preserved in surface soils, which are exposed to harsh radiation and oxidants," said Leshin. "We didn't necessarily expect to find organic molecules in the surface fines, and this supports Curiosity's strategy of drilling into rocks to continue the search for organic compounds. Finding samples with a better chance of organic preservation is key."

The results shed light on the composition of the planet's surface, while offering direction for future research, said Leshin.

"Mars has kind of a global layer, a layer of surface soil that has been mixed and distributed by frequent dust storms. So a scoop of this stuff is basically a microscopic Mars rock collection," said Leshin. "If you mix many grains of it together, you probably have an accurate picture of typical martian crust. By learning about it in any one place, you're learning about the entire planet."

These results have implications for future Mars explorers. "We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars," said Leshin. "When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water."

In addition to her work research as part of the Mars Science Laboratory Team, Leshin is Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she leads the scientific academic and research enterprise at the nation's first technological university.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

More information: 'Jake_M': Unusual Mars rock described: phys.org/news/2013-09-jakem-unusual-mars.html

Paper: "Volatile, Isotope, and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover," by L.A. Leshin et al. Science, 2013.

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Lurker2358
1.7 / 5 (19) Sep 26, 2013
2% of water in the soil is not much when you consider life as we know it varies from several tens of percents to as much as 90% water, with humans and land animals being around 70%.

Consider, a dead tree is still like 8% water even when it has been drying in the sun light in a lumber yard for months, and is then baked in a kiln to get it down to about 2% or so.

Even if there ever was life on Mars, I doubt you'll ever find anything of it beyond fossil evidence, and because it would most likely be microbial, I doubt you'll actually find physical remains or impressions, but more likely maybe chemical traces.

You guys don't actually expect to find a "cell" that we would consider a Prokaryote or a Eukaryote, do you?

Even if you did, it would much more reasonably be evidence that Mars life originated on Earth, not the other way around.

Now because of the limitations of physics and chemistry, the fundamental properties of extraterrestrial life is likely to be the same as on Earth...
Lurker2358
1.4 / 5 (19) Sep 26, 2013
That is to say, Exobiology is likely to use the same fundamental elements, and the same fundamental molecules and macro molecules as Earth life. The key difference might be in the sequence and ordering of things, the design of organelles, if they exist, perhaps protein or amino acid chirality could be reversed. Now that would be a true tale of life not related to one another if it had opposite chirality. That would be evidence against Panspermia, becaue it would imply two separate creation events for cosmic life, or at least one creation event of two different, totally unrelated domains of life, even though they have functionally the same chemical basis.

Now if it's carbon based, you'd expect the structure of proteins and amino acids to be about the same as Earth life, because there are a finite number of combinations which can be made with known elements, which are not poisonous or detrimental to other aspects of biology.

The biology we know speaks the "language" of the universe.
Shootist
1.8 / 5 (17) Sep 26, 2013
Soil?

No, regolith.
obama_socks
1.3 / 5 (14) Sep 26, 2013
2% of water in the soil is not much when you consider life as we know it varies from several tens of percents to as much as 90% water, with humans and land animals being around 70%.


"fine materials on the surface of the planet contain several percent water by weight." That's only on the SURFACE. Curiosity cannot dig deeper.

Consider, a dead tree is still like 8% water even when it has been drying in the sun light in a lumber yard for months, and is then baked in a kiln to get it down to about 2% or so.


The soil was taken from the surface which is why it is only 2% water

You guys don't actually expect to find a "cell" that we would consider a Prokaryote or a Eukaryote, do you?


It is doubtful

Even if you did, it would much more reasonably be evidence that Mars life originated on Earth, not the other way around.


Now you're placing limits on God's creational abilities and choices?

obama_socks
1.6 / 5 (14) Sep 26, 2013
Soil?

No, regolith.


I always have referred to martian soil...as soil. It is the Moon that has regolith.

5s to Lurker and Shootist. Doubtful that it will stay a 5 though with all the voting trolls in this Physorg. I very seldom rate anyone.
BAKOON
2.9 / 5 (10) Sep 26, 2013
Pussytard must have taken too many meds yesterday. She doesn't remember that she said she was done posting on Obama_socks.

Are Lurker and Shootist your other two names you talk so much about idiot-shit? Shootist does pretend to be a black man, something you have a fetish for, and Lurker is a mind-numbingly dumb creationist idiot.

Seems to fit.

I will now begin posting on my other 2 names.
-Obama_socks, Sockpuppeting idiot extraordinaire
http://phys.org/n...eve.html
Hoama
2.8 / 5 (22) Sep 26, 2013
Well this is excellent news that will no doubt be ruined by religious anti-science trolls. Thanks guys!
BAKOON
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 26, 2013
ROFLOL...here is Blotto's source of all knowledge...Wikipedia, without which Blotto would not be able to copy and paste.


Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Idiot-shit thinks it's better to spout out whatever BS comes to mind instead of looking up the facts. That explains the vast majority of her verbal diarrhea. She must think wikipedia is a liberal conspiracy. LMAO hahaarhaharhar *toot*/,....
Lurker2358
1.9 / 5 (14) Sep 26, 2013
I have no idea what you're talking about, Baboon, but you've been reported.
BAKOON
3.1 / 5 (11) Sep 26, 2013
Are you mad you are descended from an ape? I'm sorry evolution is an irrefutable fact. Maybe you should post on a forum for religious idiots?
Their self-condemnation will prove their undoing when they die and each one's Soul is forced to remain in the body and can FEEL the agonies of being part of a rotting corpse.

The Soul of an evil person will feel all the pains of a hellish existence as it is placed in the ground in darkness that is blacker than night. It has time for reflection of its evil ways and evil thoughts, words and deeds that it had while it lived.

The evil person's Soul doesn't experience the FIRES of hell immediately. No, it has to wait a very long time until the Sun goes supernova and envelopes and draws the Earth into it.
When this happens, all evil Souls, including demons, will burn for eternity.
I say it again what it I believe to be true in spite of what preachers say.

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...ory.html
Lurker2358
1.6 / 5 (14) Sep 26, 2013
Now you're placing limits on God's creational abilities and choices?


No.

I'm just talking about what we already know, as in things we definitely know exist.

It's hard to speculate about what else God may have created, and probably has created somewhere, perhaps in this universe, perhaps in some other reality.

No, nothing more limiting God that whatever limits he may have placed on himself for some reason.

If He wants to create life that uses cartoon physics, I believe He can do that.
holoman
2.7 / 5 (14) Sep 26, 2013
This is great news for Mars explorers ! Colonization looking better now.
depth12
1.7 / 5 (11) Sep 26, 2013

If He wants to create life that uses cartoon physics, I believe He can do that.


Just like the cartoon posts of yours?.
JES
4.6 / 5 (13) Sep 27, 2013
Find it remarkable that each and every time, these postings end up in religious debates and utter nonsense...
Neinsense99
2.2 / 5 (15) Sep 27, 2013
Find it remarkable that each and every time, these postings end up in religious debates and utter nonsense...

Either it is truly remarkable, or you are new here and are only in the early stages of the cynicism-enhancement process.
Kedas
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2013
If you don't understand why they always drag religious things into this, watch the movie 'Contact'
We are surrounded by those people ;)
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (7) Sep 27, 2013
If He wants to create life that uses cartoon physics, I believe He can do that.


would it also be able to create a universe with sentient beings in which if you "believe" in it or not in perspective to the vastness of physics, the universe and everything would become slightly trivial if not completely irrelevant?

Could we now get back to science and leave religion, politics or whatever one wants to mix with it out? There is water in the surface Mars, it doesn't need to be anything else then "There is water in the surface Mars".
Sinister1811
3.4 / 5 (10) Sep 27, 2013
Mars rover Curiosity finds water in first sample of planet surface


I'm glad they found it. They wouldn't want the Martians to go thirsty. :P
obama_socks
1 / 5 (16) Sep 27, 2013
LOL...what martians?

Only 2% water on the surface and already you're talking martians. :))
obama_socks
1 / 5 (14) Sep 27, 2013
But you know the old saying - where there's smoke, there's fire!

Any artifacts of an ancient martian civilization could indicate the reason why Mars is the way it is now? even nuclear war. Or even a Fukushima type meltdown.
Kedas
2.2 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2013
Question: if we don't add anything in orbit again and stop maneuvering them then how long would it take before all evidence of our being here crashed on earth?
More than 1000Jaar?
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2013
yes probably more than a 1000 jaar (mafkees x_o) Satellites in earth's orbit often have enough speed to stay in the orbit for quite a while and it doesn't require a lot of energy to keep this speed. If it is solar powered, it could stay there for thousands of years.

what makes you assume evidence couldn't be found on earth's surface itself?
philw1776
3 / 5 (8) Sep 27, 2013
Good to see excellent and interesting science results from this mission. I was skeptical of the success of the novel landing technique and glad to be wrong. Looking forward to further results. A reminder to some that there is likely substantially more water a few meters below the surface in many areas. Such deposits are not accessible by Curiosity but 2% in the surface soil, likely to be typical planet wide as stated in the article is good news for those of us interested in getting all humanity's eggs out of one basket.
Anda
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2013
New data is always welcome. Human search for understanding goes on. Keep on it.

Lurker you write savant words that you don't understand leading to nonsense conclusions... Except for obama_socks: very funny reading how one of the resident trolls applies this term to serious people interested in science. Keep on it, you surely amuse ... Someone?
obama_socks
1 / 5 (14) Sep 27, 2013
Speaking for myself, I do try to abstain from creating a situation that involves speaking out about my religious opinions, although the temptation is there in threads where the article has the word "religion" in it. However, there is a person who leans toward quoting excerpts from the Bible no matter what topic is being discussed by the normal participants. I'm certain that Anda and Lurker knows who I mean.
Mars will become the eventual new home for homo sapiens once the problem of atmospheric CO2 is solved...but only if water is truly abundant.
Lurker is really exceptionally intelligent. Anda could take lessons from good old Lurker

This is great news for Mars explorers ! Colonization looking better now.
-holoman

Ah, but will Mars have good hiking and X-country skiing trails? If not, I'm not going there.
Neinsense99
3 / 5 (10) Sep 28, 2013
Good to see excellent and interesting science results from this mission. I was skeptical of the success of the novel landing technique and glad to be wrong. Looking forward to further results. A reminder to some that there is likely substantially more water a few meters below the surface in many areas. Such deposits are not accessible by Curiosity but 2% in the surface soil, likely to be typical planet wide as stated in the article is good news for those of us interested in getting all humanity's eggs out of one basket.

There are indications of substantial subsurface ice in the northern mid latitudes, IIRC. I'm not surprise to have low concentrations at the surface or close to it.
William Bjornson
3.5 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2013
Lurker2358

It's not about finding extant or historic life on Mars. It's about having to ask people for money who believe all living animals came from ark rescued breeding pairs and that fratricide, ultimately, is ok. It is difficult to explain to some people that life is inherent in the properties of matter and that, given the right range of conditions, it will self-assemble in a geological eyeblink. Scientists being [obligately] honest, we understand the power of a demonstration over an explanation particularly with people whose minds have been closed for them by delusional doctrine. If we can honestly demonstrate the ubiquity of spontaneous life in the Universe, it weakens the psychotic delusions of the various isms which plague humans with death and destruction. It 'captures the popular imagination', such as it is, and broadens it just a tiny bit more, which is one of our main jobs. Also, the search is as much or more about scouting for a campsite as it is a search for 'life'.
Sinister1811
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 29, 2013
Good to see excellent and interesting science results from this mission. I was skeptical of the success of the novel landing technique and glad to be wrong. Looking forward to further results. A reminder to some that there is likely substantially more water a few meters below the surface in many areas. Such deposits are not accessible by Curiosity but 2% in the surface soil, likely to be typical planet wide as stated in the article is good news for those of us interested in getting all humanity's eggs out of one basket.

There are indications of substantial subsurface ice in the northern mid latitudes, IIRC. I'm not surprise to have low concentrations at the surface or close to it.


I thought there was more ice at the polar regions. Anyways, it's still not much compared to Earth I think.