Just days after Nasa announced the disappointing news that it had failed to find a key chemical associated with life on Mars, there's better news from the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover.
Water has been found in surprising quantities on the planet - and it may be able to support life -- even if it's only us, when we eventually get around to travelling there.
Above: The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite found water in the dust, dirt and fine soil from the Rocknest site on Mars.
The water was not liquid, but H20 molecules which when heated released water vapour - as the rover itself explained on Twitter:
Waters of Mars: I found H2O molecules bound in rocks/dust, not liquid water. When heated to 150-300 C, the minerals release water vapor.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) September 26, 2013
Curiosity scientist Laurie Leshin said that the evidence points to about 2% of the red dust covering much of Mars is made of water.
In the future it could be possible to extract this water and use it to sustain extended human exploration of the planet.
"One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil," Leshin said. "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 results were published in the journal Science as part of a five-paper special on the Curiosity mission.
Nasa explained further:
"Baking the sample also revealed a compound containing chlorine and oxygen, likely chlorate or perchlorate, previously found near the north pole on Mars. Finding such compounds at Curiosity's equatorial site suggests they could be distributed more globally. The analysis also suggests the presence of carbonate materials, which form in the presence of water."
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