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For Mars rover Spirit, it's do or die

NASA scientists said Thursday that they had come up with a plan to free the stalled rover Spirit from its Martian sand trap but also warned that the plan might not work. If it doesn't, the popular robot could finally reach its end. In a teleconference briefing for reporters, the Mars rover team said this is by far the most serious threat Spirit and its twin, Opportunity, have faced in the nearly six years they've been exploring Mars. The two rovers have helped unravel the planet's geological past. They also found evidence that water once flowed on the surface. Los Angeles Times_ 11/13/09

First hard evidence found of a lake on Mars
A long, deep canyon and the remains of beaches are perhaps the clearest evidence yet of a standing lake on the surface of Mars -- one that apparently contained water when the planet was supposed to have already dried up, scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder reported.  Images from a camera called the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate water carved a 30-mile-(50-km-)long canyon that would have covered 80 square miles (200 sq km) and been up to 1,500 feet deep. Reuters_6/18/09

Mars crater shaped by wind and water, rover data shows

A new paper in Science Magazine by Steven W. Squyres, a Cornell astronomer, and more than 30 colleagues, summarizes information that has been released over the past several years, and can itself be summarized in two words — wet and windy. As in, water and wind have altered the terrain around the Victoria Crater on Mars as they have done elsewhere, suggesting that the processes are regional in scope. New York Times_ 5/25/09

Science Magazine article

Did Phoenix Mars Lander find liquid water?
Little 'globules' studied

During its more than five-month stint on Mars last year, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander found evidence that liquid water existed at the spacecraft's landing site, some Phoenix team members say.  Water is key to all forms of life as we know it and the discovery of liquid water would suggest a greater opportunity for biology on the red planet. The new but controversial conclusion comes from observations of a set of "little globules" attached to struts on the lander's legs that were photographed by Phoenix's robotic arm camera over the course of the mission, as first reported at Spaceflight Now.

MSNBC_3 /11/09

Water ran on Mars as early humans walked the Earth, study suggests

Water that melted from ice and snow carved channels through a Martian gully and deposited a fan of mud at its mouth less than 1.25 million years ago — a recent time when early humans were walking upright and making tools on Earth, suggests a new study. Previously, many scientists thought most water on Mars during that time period consisted of ice that sublimed directly into vapour and vice versa, with occasional bursts of liquid from groundwater sources, said Samuel Schon, lead author of the study. His work, published in the March issue of Geology, shows that doesn't account for the entire water cycle on Mars. CBC News_ 3/3/09

Life on Mars? "Missing mineral" find boosts chances

The possibility that life took hold on early Mars got a boost this week with the announcement of the discovery of a previously "missing" mineral on the red planet. New images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show areas fo Mars where magnesium carbonate is exposed in 3.6-billion-year-old bedrock in Mars's Nili Fossae region. Carbonate minerals contain carbon and oxygen and need liquid water to form. Common carbonates on Earth include limestone and chalk. National Geographic News_ 12/19/08

Vast glaciers spotted on Mars

In a discovery that partly answers the question of where all the water went on Mars, scientists have found vast, debris-covered glaciers much nearer the equatorial region than anyone had expected, according to a report Friday in the journal Science. The glaciers, estimated to contain at least as much water as Lake Huron and possibly as much as the entire Great Lakes, were found by ground-penetrating radar on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. Los Angeles Times_ 11/22/08

Mars lander succumbs to winter; sought signs of water and life

The Phoenix Mars lander is dead. Mission managers said Monday that they had not heard from the NASA spacecraft for a week and that they thought it had likely fallen quiet for good. With the onset of winter and declining power generated by the Phoenix’s solar panels, managers knew the lander would succumb soon, but had hoped to squeeze out a few more weeks of weather data. The Phoenix landed in May to examine the northern arctic plains, and the mission, originally scheduled to last three months, was extended twice. New York Times_ 11/10/08

New minerals point to wetter Mars

A Nasa space probe has discovered a new category of minerals spread across large regions of Mars, suggesting liquid water remained on the planet's surface a billion years later than scientists had previously thought. The US Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft found evidence of hydrated silica, better known as opal, according to an article in the November issue of the academic journal Geology. The discovery adds to the growing body of evidence that water played a crucial role in shaping the Martian landscape and - possibly - in sustaining life. Researchers made the discovery using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) instrument on MRO. The $720 million (£449 million; 565 million euro) MRO robotic probe reached the Red Planet in 2006; its objectives are to study Mars' geology, climate and atmosphere from orbit, as well as to search for signs of water. BBC News_ 10/29/08

NASA robot sends back evidence it's snowing on Mars

Scientists from NASA said today that its instruments on the Red Planet have detected falling snow. In a press conference Monday afternoon, NASA officials said that a laser instrument on the Phoenix Mars Lander has been taking readings of the Mars atmosphere and recently detected snow falling from clouds about 2.5 miles above the planet's surface. The snow apparently is evaporating before reaching the ground. NASA today also noted that recent soil experiments onboard the lander found the presence of calcium carbonate -- a main ingredient in chalk -- and clay. Both are formed with liquid water. Computerworld_ 9/29/08

Nasa's lander samples Mars water

Nasa's Phoenix lander spacecraft has for the first time identified water in a sample of soil collected from the planet's surface.  Scientists will now be able to begin studying the sample to see whether the planet was ever, or is, habitable.  This is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted   Since it touched down on 25 June, the Phoenix lander has been studying the surface of Mars to investigate whether it has ever been capable of supporting life.  It has been studying soil with a chemistry laboratory, an oven called TEGA (Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer instrument), a microscope, a probe and cameras.  "We've seen evidence for this water-ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted," William Boynton, one of the researchers on the mission, explained. BBC_7/31/08

Water 'widespread' on early Mars

Water was once widespread on Mars, data from a Nasa spacecraft shows, raising the prospect that the Red Planet could have supported life.  Researchers found evidence of vast lakes, flowing rivers and deltas on early Mars, all of which were potential habitats for microbes.  They also discovered that wet conditions probably persisted for a long time on the Red Planet. Details appear in the journals Nature and Nature Geoscience.  BBC_7/17/08

Mars once held seas that may have been suitable for life

"There was apparently pervasive water present during the first 600 to 700 million years," said Brown University geologist John Mustard, co-author of a paper scheduled to be published today in Nature. Mustard's team studied data returned by the Compact Reconnaisance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, an instrument designed to find traces of minerals that interact with water. Ancient Martian oceans may have been salty, but at least they weren't boiling. And perhaps, said Mustard, they weren't dead. Wired_ 7/16/08

Proof! Water ice found on Mars

Scientists said today they have "found proof" of water ice on Mars away from the polar ice caps, a discovery made by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander. The finding is a crucial first step toward learning whether the ground on Mars is hospitable, because all life as we know it requires water. Now scientists can get on with the business of studying the chemistry of Mars dirt in more detail. Space.com_ 6/20/08

Phoenix lander scoops up Martian soil

The American space module, Phoenix lander has scooped up its first, cup-sized sample of Martian dirt for analysis. NASA scientists say the mission is searching for water or signs of life. Australian Broadcasting Corp._ 6/7/08

New pictures boost feelings Mars lander has bared ice

Sharp new images received Saturday from the Phoenix lander largely convinced scientists that the spacecraft's thrusters had uncovered a large patch of ice just below the Martian surface, team members said. That bodes well for the mission's main goal of digging for ice that can be tested for evidence of organic compounds that are the chemical building blocks of life. Washington University scientist Ray Arvidson said the spacecraft's thrusters may have blown away dirt covering the ice when the robot landed one week ago. "We were worried that it may be 30-, 40-, 50-centimeters deep, which would be a lot of work. Now we are fairly certain that we can easily get down to the ice table," said Peter Smith, a University of Arizona scientist who is the chief project investigator. The spacecraft is equipped with a backhoe-like robotic arm that will be used to dig into the ground and retrieve samples for testing in the lander's small laboratories. The lander was sent to a spot on Mars' northern regions in hopes of finding frozen water, but just how deep underground it would be found was unknown. The robot arm is expected to begin its first digging operations after several more days of testing. AP_ 5/31/08

Spacecraft reveals look at Mars' polar region

The first closeup views of the north pole of Mars look fairly familiar. Scientists overseeing the Phoenix Mars Lander say images sent back by the probe show a landscape similar to what can be found in Earth's permafrost regions. Some pictures show patterns in the soil that could be related to the freezing and thawing of ground ice. The lander will spend a week checking its instruments before it starts a 90-day mission of studying whether the northern polar region possesses the raw ingredients needed for life to emerge. AP/KFVS_ 5/26/08

Touchdown! First signals arrive from Martian water probe

After traveling more than 400 million miles during its 10-month journey from Earth, the Phoenix Lander touched down safely and sent its first signals from the Martian arctic surface Sunday afternoon. The lander is sitting a half degree off-axis, a near perfect landing. When asked if the landing could have gone better, Phoenix project manager, Barry Goldstein replied, "Not in my dreams." The Phoenix Lander is built on a platform similar to the failed Mars Polar Lander, which lost communication contact shortly after entering the Martian atmosphere in 1998. The Phoenix, sent to find water and other signs that Mars can support life, has design improvements intended to fix problems that may have caused the Polar Lander's failure. Wired_ 5/25/08

Mars probe set for risky descent

Scientists are preparing for "seven minutes of terror" as a Nasa spacecraft makes a nail-biting descent to the surface of Mars. The Phoenix lander will begin its plunge through the Martian atmosphere on 25 May (GMT) as it attempts to land in the planet's polar north. The craft needs to perform a series of challenging manoeuvres along the way. It then begins a three-month mission to investigate Mars' geological history and potential habitability. Water is crucial to the mission's objectives. Not only is it a pre-requisite for biology, but it has shaped the planet's geology and climate over billions of years. Phoenix will touch down on the northern plains, which hold vast stores of water-ice just below ground. The lander will use a 2.4m robotic arm to dig through the protective topsoil layer to this water-ice below; a scoop on the arm will lift samples of both soil and ice to the lander's deck for detailed scientific analysis. However, much of the water-ice is thought to be frozen as hard as paving stones.  BBC News_ 5/14/08

Water gushes created "staircases" on Mars: study
Sudden, tremendous gushes of water from underground most likely carved out unusual fan-shaped geological formations with steps like a staircase long ago on the surface of Mars, scientists said on Wednesday.  The Martian surface boasts perhaps 200 large basins that have formations resembling fans. About 10 of them are terraced, with what looks like steps into the basin. Since they were first seen three years ago, scientists have debated how these formations, some of them 9 miles wide, were created.  Erin Kraal, a researcher at Virginia Tech University who led the study published in the journal Nature, said these Martian formations probably formed quickly -- in a period of decades not hundreds, thousands or millions of years.  And they involved a lot of water.  "What you could imagine is something like the Mississippi River flowing for 10 years and then turning off, or the Rhine River flowing for 100 years and then turning off," Kraal said in a telephone interview.  "It's hard to image being able to get that much water to start so suddenly and stop so suddenly," Kraal added.  Reuters_2/20/08

Was Mars water too salty for life?

Not only was Martian water highly acidic in ancient times, but it was also extremely salty, researchers reported today in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "In fact, it was salty enough that only a handful of known terrestrial organisms would have a ghost of a chance of surviving there when conditions were at their best," Harvard biologist Andrew Knoll, a member of the Mars rover science team, told reporters. When you add in the earlier findings about how acidic Martian water was, back in the era when the rocks now being studied were formed, the picture of the Martian environment becomes so forbidding that Knoll couldn't think of any organism on Earth that could survive.  MSNBC_ 2/15/08

Mars Express spots "active glaciers" on the Red Planet

Images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Spacecraft have identified a probable active glacier for the first time on the Red Planet.  This glacier appears in the Deuteronilus Mensae region between Mars' rugged southern highlands and the flat northern lowlands.  Though ancient glaciers, many millions of years old, have been seen before on Mars, the new glacier may only be several thousand years old.  As seen in the images, white tips can be seen on the glacial ridges, which can only be freshly exposed ice.  This is found in very few places on the Red Planet because as soon ice is exposed to the Martian environment, it sublimates - or turns from a solid state directly into gas.  Daily India.com_12/20/07

Water on Mars- Just below the surface
Ingenious detective work by University of Guelph, Canada, researchers has uncovered the strongest evidence yet of large reservoirs of water today at the Martian surface.  The water isn't a liquid, but is chemically bound up in a white layer of mineral salts located only a penny's thickness below the planet's characteristic red surface.  The iron and sulphur compound that makes up this white layer contains as much as 18 per cent water by weight, says Iain Campbell, a retired University of Guelph physics professor who led the research.  On Earth, water is often part of minerals that contain sulphates. Each molecule of the mineral gypsum, for instance, contains two molecules of water making it valuable in drywall.  Physics professor Ralf Gellert, a co-investigator on the Guelph research team, said the white mineral layer wasn't limited to a just a few spots in the Columbia Hills region where NASA's Spirit rover has been exploring. "It seems to be a very common thing in this area." he said. Thestar.com_10/18/07

NASA will use Russian technology to seek water on moon, Mars

Russian and U.S. space chiefs signed agreements Wednesday to cooperate on unmanned missions that would search for potential water deposits beneath the surface of the moon and Mars. The agreements signed by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov deal with putting Russian instruments on board NASA probes that would be sent to the moon and Mars. The first Russian instrument, called LEND, will be mounted on an unmanned NASA probe called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, which is to be launched in October 2008 to search for possible sources of water under the moon's poles. Dr. Gordon Chin, project scientist for LRO, said that the Russian instrument has won an international contest for the best such device for the mission. AP/USA Today_ 10/4/07

September, 2007

Muddying the water: Orbiter drains confidence from fluid history of Mars

Evidence for liquid water on some parts of Mars—now or in the past—looks leakier than researchers had supposed, according to an analysis of the sharpest images ever taken of the Red Planet from orbit. But in other places, the new images bolster the case that water once flowed. High-resolution pictures and infrared spectra recorded by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) indicate that fresh, bright streaks on two steep gullies don't signify a recent flow of water, as scientists suggested just a year ago. MRO's instruments neither detected minerals that might have been left behind as salty groundwater evaporated from those regions nor found changes in the shapes of the deposits since the gullies were last imaged 15 months ago. Such changes could have occurred if the bright deposits were frost created by an underground supply of water rushing to the frigid surface in recent years or months. Instead, the deposits on the steep gullies could just as easily have been formed by landslides of dry, sandy material, assert Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona in Tucson and his colleagues in one of five reports of MRO findings in the Sept. 21 Science. Other gullies, however, whose slopes are too shallow to permit landslides, do offer clear evidence of watery flows. These flows might have occurred several million years ago, when the Martian climate was warmer. ScienceNews_ 9/22/07

NASA's hardy rover begins its drive into a Mars crater

Two months after surviving a giant dust storm, one of NASA's robotic rovers on Mars began a risky drive yesterday into a crater blasted open by a meteor eons ago. Scientists want the rover Opportunity to travel 40 feet down toward a bright band of rocks in the Victoria Crater. They believe that the rocks represent an ancient surface of Mars and that studying them could shed light on the planet's early climate. The aging but hardy rovers have been exploring Mars for 31/2 years - far outlasting their primary three-month mission. Both have uncovered geologic evidence of ancient water on the planet. AP/Philadelphia Inquirer_ 9/12/07

NASA's Phoenix spacecraft embarks on 10-month journey to Mars' north pole: It's expected to be the first to taste the water of another world

The Delta II rocket carrying the 7-foot-tall lander lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 5:26 a.m. on a scheduled 423-million-mile journey that should deliver Phoenix to the Martian surface on May 25. If the mission unfolds as planned, the lander will parachute to the Red Planet's surface, using its descent engines to slow itself to about 5 mph. Once on the ground, it will unfurl its power-generating solar panels and extend its 7.7-foot robotic digging arm, the key component of the $420-million mission. NASA has tried to keep expectations low, asserting that Phoenix is not searching for life, merely trying to understand the water story. Even optimists acknowledge that Mars is, and possibly always has been, too hostile an environment for complex life forms. But scientists no longer rule out the possibility that some rudimentary forms of life could once have existed, and may still, possibly in some watery underground environment heated by the planet's interior. The spacecraft was designed and built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Los Angeles Times_ 8/5/07 (logon required)

U.S. to launch Mars probe in search for clues of life
A NASA probe that will analyze Mars for water and other chemicals needed for life is on track for launch aboard an unmanned Delta rocket on Saturday, NASA officials said on Thursday.  The Phoenix spacecraft, which will take nine months to reach Mars, is designed to land in the planet's northern polar region and dig into the frozen soil for samples to analyze. Launch is targeted for 5:26 a.m. on Saturday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The mission's primary goal is to ascertain if Mars is, or ever was, suited for life to develop. Previous Mars probes, including the two rovers Spirit and Opportunity, have found geologic and chemical evidence of past water, but did not have the tools for in-depth analysis.  Instead of roaming the planet's surface, Phoenix will zero in on a target zone and scrutinize the terrain on a molecular level.  Reuters_8/2/07

Mars' ice patchy, water cycle quite active, study reveals

New data on Mars's underground ice shows that the red planet likely has a very active water cycle.  Using heat emission observations from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, researchers were able to map seasonal changes in the temperature of the red planet's surface to locate and measure the buried ice.   "This gives us a more detailed picture of the underground ice on Mars," said Joshua Bandfield, a research specialist at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration in Tempe, who led the study.  The findings, which are reported in the May 3 issue of the journal Nature, show that the depth of the water-ice table varies greatly on Mars.  The results also suggest that water ice and water vapor in the planet's atmosphere can swap places as the planet undergoes regular cycles of warming and cooling.  National Geographic_5/2/07


Mars pole holds enough ice to flood planet, radar study shows

Mars's southern polar ice cap contains enough water to cover the entire planet approximately 36 feet (11 meters) deep if melted, according to a new radar study.  It's the most precise calculation yet for the thickness of the red planet's ice, according to the international team of researchers responsible for the discovery.  Using an ice-penetrating radar to map the south pole's underlying terrain, the scientists calculated that the ice is up to 2.2 miles (3,500 meters) thick in places, said the study's leader, Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  The radar, from the Mars Express orbiter, also revealed the surprising purity of the ice, Plaut added.  National Geographic_3/15/07

Mars water traces left by springs, not seas, experts say
Curious deposits on Mars that originally appeared to be signs of an ancient ocean were instead produced by water emerging from underground, experts say.  A new study has found that networks of springs and a shallow water table can account for mineral deposits first discovered by the Mars rover Opportunity in 2004.  The deposits had been considered possible evidence that extensive lakes or oceans once existed for long periods on the Martian surface before finally evaporating.  The new study concludes that while the region where the deposits were found, known as Meridiani Planum, may at times have contained rivers and ponds in low-lying areas, it was no sea bed.  National Geographic_3/7/07

US spacecraft gathers hints of underground water on Mars
A U.S. spacecraft has provided fresh evidence that water once flowed on Mars. In this case, it is water that ran deep underground through rock fissures, places where scientists say life could have thrived hidden from the harsh Martian surface environment.

The U.S. space agency NASA's newest satellite around the red planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has taken color pictures showing a landscape called Chasma Canyon composed of dozens of alternating layers of dark and light toned rocks and crossed by dark sand dunes.  Within those layers, the detailed images show fractures, called joints, surrounded by light colored bedrock that was once deep underground before erosion exposed it. University of Arizona researcher Chris Okubo argues that this brighter bedrock is clear evidence that a liquid flowed through it and washed the dark minerals away, as water has done in similar situations on Earth.Voice of America_2/15/07

Sun did not blow water off Mars, study finds
Scientists trying to find out where all the water on Mars went ruled out one culprit on Thursday -- new measurements show the Sun did not blow it away.  They measured ions -- charged particles -- being blown off the planet by the solar wind, itself a stream of charged particles.  Very little oxygen or carbon dioxide was blown off the planet during the year they measured it, the team at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Center d'Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements in Toulouse, France, reported.  "Mars was once wet but is now dry, and the fate of its ancient carbon dioxide atmosphere is one of the biggest puzzles in Martian planetology," they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.  Several missions to Mars have found indirect evidence that water flowed relatively recently on its surface, and it seems fairly clear to experts that the dusty red planet was once covered with lakes, oceans and perhaps rivers.  Reuters_1/25/07

Software upgrade to smarten up Mars rovers

The doughty Mars rovers will celebrate their third anniversary on the Red Planet with new software that will make them smarter and more independent. Spirit and Opportunity will have improved image processing capabilities that will help them search out dust devils and other weather patterns. A new navigation system will allow the rovers to spot hazards and figure out how to avoid them without help from controllers on Earth. The twin rovers continue to defy all expectations for their longevity. When Spirit landed on Jan. 3, 2004, and Opportunity followed three weeks later, experts hoped they would last through their planned mission of 90 Martian days, which are about 40 minutes longer than Earth days. Their key discoveries include evidence that water was once abundant on the surface of Mars in at least one region. Opportunity also found rock layers showing that wind-blown dunes came and went while the water table fluctuated. Los Angeles Times_ 12/30/06 (logon required)

Mars water evidence excites NASA
After decades of scouring images of Mars for signs of water, scientists believe they have found stunning evidence that water may even now be flowing through the Red Planet's frigid surface.  The news excited scientists who hunt for extraterrestrial life. If the finding is confirmed, they say, all the ingredients favorable for life on Mars would be in place: liquid water and a stable heat source.  "This is a squirting gun for water on Mars," said Kenneth Edgett, a scientist at San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems, which operates a camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.  Associated Press_12/7/06

Evidence shows water flows on Mars

Photographs of the Martian surface taken by an orbiting spacecraft have revealed powerful evidence that liquid water occasionally flows on the Red Planet's surface, an unexpected finding that suddenly increases the odds that the planet may harbor some kind of life. Scientists have long known that water exists on Mars as polar ice and atmospheric vapor. But a core requirement for life is water in liquid form, a commodity that has been seemingly absent on that cold and ruddy planet. A comparison of photographs taken several years apart by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor has found that two gullies, at least, experienced flash floods in between photo shoots. Washington Post_ 12/6/06

Aviation Week Exclusive: Water spotted on surface of Mars

Editor's note: According to an item first posted by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine: "NASA is ready to announce major new findings about the presence of water currently emerging onto the surface of Mars. If confirmed, this would increase the possibility that microbial life could have existed recently or possibly exists now on the Martian surface. The potential seepage of ground water onto or near the surface has been a key area of investigation by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft (AW&ST Nov. 27, pp. 53-55). Aviation Week/SpaceRef_ 12/4/06

November, 2006

Veteran Mars orbiter that gathered historical evidence of water, may have died

In words and somber tones usually associated with a death in the family, engineers and scientists have announced that the Mars Global Surveyor, the most durable spacecraft ever to orbit that planet, has fallen silent and is given little chance of revival. The 10-year-old spacecraft - which mapped the Martian surface, recorded seasonal and annual climate changes, and gathered evidence of water in the planet's past - has not communicated with flight controllers since Nov. 2. A disabled solar power array is the prime suspect. "We may have lost a dear old friend and teacher," said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for Mars exploration at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Meyer spoke at a news teleconference Tuesday from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the mission is being directed. New York Times/International Herald Tribune_ 11/22/06

NASA's Opportunity rover approaches crater in search for history of water on Mars

Opportunity has been making its way to Victoria Crater for the past 21 Earth months - about half its mission. The depression has high walls with layers of exposed rock that should reveal significant new information about the Red Planet's geological past. The researchers hope it will serve up a treasure trove of information about Martian history, particularly the role of water on the planet. BBC News_ 9/29/06

June, 2006

Exploring Mars: a crater where water ran

In early 2004, NASA's Mars strategy of "following the water" paid off handsomely for the rover named Opportunity. Landing in Meridiani Planum, Opportunity immediately found beds of soft sandstones, much altered by acidic water long ago.  NASA's next Mars rover will be the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), due for launch in 2009. In hopes of hitting paydirt once again, NASA has scientists scouting for landing sites that might extend the Martian water story beyond Opportunity's glimpse at Meridiani.  Roughly 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) southwest of Meridiani lies Holden Crater, 154 km (96 mi) wide. Holden and surroundings contain two potential sites where MSL could study ancient water-flow deposits.   Holden's wide floor, shown in a newly released image, has abundant layered sediments, channels, and large piles of debris at canyon mouths. These suggest a long history of deposits by water. And in Eberswalde Crater, just north of Holden, scientists have spotted what is surely the remnant of a river delta.  Space.com_6/22/06


Researchers rain on Mars' gullies parade

Martian gullies that some scientists believe were recently carved by liquid water might instead be the result of landslides triggered by wind and meteor impacts, scientists say. The idea is based on new findings that the Moon, where no liquid water has been found, contains gullies similar to those found on Mars. Gwendolyn Bart, a graduate student in planetary sciences at the University of Arizona, presented her findings last week at the 37th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. Space.com_ 3/21/06

NASA probe to pry water secrets from Mars

The two-ton Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most sophisticated ever to arrive at Mars and is expected to gather more data on the Red Planet than all previous Martian missions combined. It will explore Mars in low orbit for four years and is expected to churn out the most detailed information ever about the planet and its climate and landscape. In the fall, the orbiter will begin exploring the Martian atmosphere, scan the surface for evidence of ancient water and scout for future landing sites to send robotic and possibly human explorers. The $720 million mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.  AP/Wired_ 3/10/06

December, 2005

New studies question Mars surface water assumptions

Rather than abundant surface water over significant stretches of planet's history, as has been widely reported, NASA's Opportunity rover's observations might represent the results of a meteor impact or volcanic activity on an otherwise very dry world, according to two new studies. The counter arguments, presented in two papers in the Dec. 22 issue of the journal Nature, go to the very heart of the ultimate question about Mars: Was it ever warm and wet enough to support life? Today, the Mars rover mission’s Principal Investigator, Steven Squyres of Cornell University, told that his team's interpretation has always been that the water was mostly underground, sometimes seeping to the surface only to evaporate quickly. "From the start, the media has overemphasized surface water and underemphasized the underground water," he said. Space.com_ 12/21/05

Signs of water found deep within Mars
New observations of Mars' interior have revealed a crater hidden from the surface and new information about ice below the polar cap. The fresh research announced on Wednesday also points to the chemical signatures of past water on Mars, adding to other evidence suggesting a wet past.  Scientists have long held that the deep channels and signs of extensive aqueous erosion are evidence that Mars was once a watery world. But these geologic signatures alone are not enough to confirm that liquid water was stable on the planet’s surface for extended periods of time.  Liquid water is a key ingredient to life as we know it. While there is no firm evidence that biology has ever existed on Mars, scientists are seeking locations that may once have held standing water as logical places to search with future missions. They are also looking for hidden reservoirs of water beneath the planet's surface, which could serve as a refuge for past Martian life or a resource for future explorers.  MSNBC_11/30/05

Martian dunes hide water secret
Scientists have found evidence that large amounts of water-ice hide within massive sand dunes on Mars. One of the dunes, which spans 6.5km and rises 475m above the Martian surface, may be the single largest sand dune in the entire Solar System. The icy dunes could be a valuable resource for any future manned missions to the planet, Dr. Mary Bourke told a science conference in Dublin. BBC News_ 9/5/05

August, 2005

NASA says liquid water created Martian gullies

NASA scientists think they've developed a strong case that liquid water created the strange gullies discovered on Mars a few years ago. These gullies might indicate underground sites of water, and could be a good place to search for life. Although Mars' environment is too cold, dry and low pressure to support liquid water, it could last a little while as it escaped from an underground reservoir. The lack of debris fields at the ends of these gullies suggests the water froze or evaporated before it reached the bottom. Universe Today_ 8/25/05

New Mars Orbiter's Strategy: 'Follow the Water'

Every 26 months or so, Earth uses its inside track around the sun to lap its slower-circling neighbor Mars. At that point, the two planets are at their closest, and the amount of energy required to fly from one to the other is tantalizingly modest by interplanetary standards.  Since 1996, NASA has taken advantage of every one of those biennial opportunities to launch spacecraft to Mars, and last week was no exception. On Friday, with Earth coming up fast on the Red Planet's heels, NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the latest and most sophisticated package of scientific instruments ever tossed toward the war-god planet.  The MRO is designed to orbit Mars for as long as eight years. Its prime mission is to help determine whether life has ever existed there and whether, perchance, any kind of life resides there today in some of the planet's less hostile niches.  Washington Post_8/15/05

Water ice in crater at Martian north pole
A photo image, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, shows a patch of water ice sitting on the floor of an unnamed crater near the Martian north pole.  The HRSC obtained these images during orbit 1343 with a ground resolution of approximately 15 metres per pixel. The unnamed impact crater is located on Vastitas Borealis, a broad plain that covers much of Mars's far northern latitudes, at approximately 70.5° North and 103° East. _ 7/28/05


Meteor study pours cold water on warm Mars theory

Argon doesn't lie
A study of meteorites chipped off the surface of Mars suggests the planet has been frozen for 4 billion years and probably never had the warm wet conditions that could have given rise to life, according to researchers. Their study of two meteorites that fell to Earth suggests they were never in warm conditions. The report, published in the journal Science, contradicts theories the now-frozen planet may once have been warm enough for life to have arisen.  Reuters_7/22/05

Delay hits deployment of water-seeking radar on Europe's Mars Express spacecraft

The antenna boom released on Wednesday did not fully straighten out. A space agency spokesperson said the anomaly did not threaten the mission. Meetings are now being held to determine what implications the discovery has for deploying the second boom. BBC News_ 5/9/05

Europe's Mars Express spacecraft deploys first of three radar booms in search for water within the Red Planet

Spacecraft telemetry suggests the boom deployed successfully. The primary antenna's second boom is now due to be deployed on Sunday. Fears that one or more of the antenna components could swing back and hit the spacecraft led deployment of the booms to be delayed for more than a year. BBC News_ 5/5/05

European Space Agency's Mars Express set to deploy radar in search for water and ice under the surface of the Red Planet

The project has been delayed for more than a year. Controllers are worried the radar's long antenna booms will swing back and hit delicate components on the probe. Deployment will take place in a window from today to 12 May, with the Marsis instrument's three booms set to open out of the spacecraft separately. The radar altimeter will search for water up to 5km (3 miles) beneath Mars. Results from the instrument are eagerly awaited; it is thought the greatest reservoir of retained water on the Red Planet could be found beneath the planet's surface. Some think such underground reservoirs could provide a habitat for microbial life. BBC News_ 5/1/05

March, 2005

Flowing water, lava and ice shaped Mars' surface just a few million years ago, fueling speculation about possibility of life on the planet

In three reports published in the science journal Nature, an international team of researchers said images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Mission and new data show glacial movement, climate change and volcanic activity. The new evidence, based on images of the planet's surface from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), shows Mars is dynamic and had a watery past. Liquid water is seen as a prerequisite for earthly life. Reuters_ 3/16/05

February, 2005

European scientists say Mars pictures reveal huge, frozen sea

The find has implications for life on Mars. The team think a catastrophic event flooded the landscape five million years ago and then froze out. They tell a forthcoming edition of Nature magazine that sediments covered the ice, locking it in place. Large reserves of water-ice are known to be held at the poles on Mars but if this discovery is confirmed by follow-up observations, it would be a first for a region at such a low latitude. BBC News_ 2/22/05 Exclusive: NASA researchers claim evidence of present life on Mars

A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. The scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, told the group that they have submitted their findings to the journal Nature for publication in May, and their paper currently is being peer reviewed. What Stoker and Lemke have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth. Space.com_ 2/16/05

European Mars probe radar to deploy in May in search for water

The Marsis instrument was due to open out of the spacecraft in April 2004. But last-minute concerns that its antenna booms could swing back and hit the probe kept the instrument in its box while the issue was investigated. The radar altimeter will search for water up to 5km (3 miles) beneath the surface of the Red Planet. The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Marsis) will seek evidence of underground water, either frozen or liquid. It is thought the greatest reservoir of retained water on the Red Planet could be found beneath the planet's surface. BBC News_ 2/8/05

December, 2004
Mars water discovery tops Science magazine's eagerly awaited 10 key scientific advances of 2004

The NASA robotic rovers triumphed in a strong field, including the discovery of a dwarf human species in Indonesia and the announcement in February that South Korean scientists had cloned human embryos.

BBC News_ 12/17/04

Spirit finds compelling evidence that liquid water flowed at Gusev Crater, the rocky basin it is exploring on Mars

Spirit has discovered a mineral called goethite in the bedrock at Gusev which forms only in the presence of water. Details were outlined at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, US. BBC News_ 12/14/04

October, 2004

Study: Mars water didn't last long

If water ever flowed over Mars' surface, it was a one-night stand, say geochemists studying the properties of an unusual mineral, jarosite, allegedly found by the Opportunity rover at Meridiani Planum. "Jarosite is basically a salt," said geochemist Megan Elwood Madden of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Madden and her colleagues have used what is known about jarosite on Earth to model the conditions that would allow it to be created and last on Mars. Their results are presented in this week's issue of the journal Nature. Discovery Channel_ 10/13/04

Epsom-like salts could reveal history of water on Mars

Geologists at Indiana University Bloomington and Los Alamos National Laboratory said such salts are believed to be common on Mars and may be a major source of water there. In their report in this week's Nature, the scientists also speculate that the salts will provide a chemical record of water on the Red Planet. Press Release_ 10/6/04

September, 2004

New Mars water data gives life clue
Patterns of water and methane in Mars' atmosphere overlap may have important implications for the idea that the planet could harbour life. The finding comes from the Mars Express probe in orbit around the Red Planet. If microbes are making methane seen in Mars' atmosphere, they would rely on water, so the association between the two has excited some researchers. BBC News_ 9/20/04

People on Mars possible in 20 to 30 years, if there is water

Two Mars Exploration Robots robots, dubbed Spirit and Opportunity, have found ancient evidence that water was once plentiful -- important for scientists hoping to know if there was once -- or could still be -- life on Mars. Without water, the dream of sending astronauts to the often dusty planet could unravel. Such a mission would take 11 to 12 months to get to Mars and it would be impossible to carry enough water for the astronauts, plus the water needed to make rocket fuel for the return journey, to cool the spacecraft and to generate energy. Reuters_ 9/15/04

August, 2004
Mars Hills, Crater Yield Evidence of Flowing Water
NASA scientists reported Wednesday that the hills of Mars yielded more tantalizing clues about how water shaped the Red Planet. Both NASA robots Spirit and Opportunity found ancient evidence of water on Mars earlier in their missions but new data recorded by Spirit's scientific instruments this week suggests that the life-giving liquid was once more plentiful than they thought. Reuters_8/18/04

European Space Agency's Mars Express maps water vapour on Mars

It soon will use its radar to hunt for water below the surface. Mars Express has detected an area of high water vapour over a region of the Red Planet called Arabia Terra. The finding agrees with a map of water-equivalent hydrogen on the Red Planet compiled by Nasa's Mars Odyssey probe. The map is thought to be an indicator of water reservoirs lurking beneath the surface. BBC News_ 7/26/04

Surface water existed on Mars across a significant span of time, not just for years but eons
Within a few weeks of landing on Mars in January,  NASA's rover Opportunity revealed that bodies of liquid water once existed on the surface of Mars. But that evidence proved what could have been only a solitary event - a single wet episode. The latest findings push the boundaries significantly further back, into geological timescales. New Scientist_ 7/19/04

Solar Storms May Have Torn Away Mars Water - NASA

Solar storms, like a big one that affected Earth last year, might have torn away the water that used to cover parts of Mars, NASA scientists say. Astronomers believe Mars once had oceans of surface water, enough to support long-ago life, but they have not determined where that water went some 3.5 billion years ago. Reuters_7/8/04

June, 2004

Mars was once more watery than thought; Scientists still trying to work out why it dried up
Explorations by the robotic rover Opportunity inside a stadium-sized crater on Mars have turned up more evidence of the salt-like mineral sulfate -- and much farther down the crater than scientists had expected. Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit, in the fifth month of a scheduled three-month Mars mission, have already exceeded NASA hopes. In March, Opportunity uncovered geologic evidence near its landing site on the barren terrain that the area was once "drenched" in water.   Reuters_ 6/25/04

Missing Martian water: Where'd it go?

Some may have evaporated, some may be polar ice and some, just maybe, is hiding underground. New York Times_ 6/15/04 (logon required)

NASA's Spirit rover finds more signs of past water on Mars
Spirit's new evidence is a high concentration of salt in a trench dug by the rover in the vast Gusev Crater region, which it has been exploring since landing on Jan. 3, said Cornell University astronomer Steve Squyres, the mission's main scientist. Water percolating through the subsurface may have dissolved material from rocks, he said. AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 6/8/04


May, 2004
Rover finds new Mars water signs
The US space agency's robotic rover Opportunity has found initial evidence that rocks at a new Martian crater it is exploring were deposited in water. BBC News_ 5/18/04

Mars rover Opportunity scans rocks in stadium-sized crater for more clues to Mars' wet past
JPL scientists hope Opportunity's latest observations at Endurance Crater will unlock an earlier chapter in the planet's environmental history than the water-bearing rock it discovered in March. Reuters_ 5/17/04

Mars rover Opportunity is perched to open the mysterious -- and possibly wet -- history of the Red Planet
It has also offered scientists a stunning new vista of red, sheer cliffs rising up from a sandy Martian crater. Further study could shed light on how the apparently sedimentary rock --laid down by wind, water or ice -- formed on ancient Mars. Researchers plan to spend weeks mapping the site by driving the rover around the rim of the crater. If operators decide it is safe, Opportunity may drive into the new crater and perform chemical and microscopic tests on the rocks. CNN_ 5/9/04


April, 2004

Europe's Mars Express probe radar search for water postponed while antenna checked out
Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (Marsis) will seek evidence of underground water, either frozen or liquid. It is thought the greatest reservoir of retained water on Mars could be found beneath the planet's surface. BBC News_ 4/28/04

NASA's Spirit rover discovers more evidence of water--and a puzzle

Drilling deep into a scalloped rock at Gusev crater, the Spirit rover uncovered cracking and more evidence of water. One intriguing result that scientists hope to probe further is why the concentrations of bromine and chlorine salt have not remained in a fixed ratio (as in sea water) but instead diverged (as when evaporation at the Dead Sea separates bromine from chlorine).
Astrobiology magazine 4/2/04

March, 2004

Evidence found of ancient sea on Mars
The discovery by the Mars rover Opportunity is the most compelling evidence yet that it is poised on the shore of what was once a shallow, salty sea that filled and dried again and again over countless millions of years, NASA scientists reported Tuesday. The water, whether shallow or deep, was in constant motion, the new evidence clearly shows, and therefore the climate on the now-frozen planet must have been warm some time in the distant past and thus hospitable to life. San Francisco Chronicle 3/23/04

Europe's Orbiter finds icy water on Mars' southern pole
Spectral images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter show there is plenty of icy water at the southern pole of Mars, French scientists said today. Iimages from the OMEGA instrument aboard the Mars Express indicate its southern pole has three distinct areas containing water ice. Reuters/Houston Chronicle 3/17/04

So, where did the water on Mars come from?
And why does Mars have no liquid water now, while Earth apparently has been covered with the stuff for 4 billion years?
Scientists are just beginning to piece the story together, and it goes right back to the beginning. Toronto Star 3/7/04

Another Mars Rover finds evidence of water
NASA's Spirit rover has found evidence of past water activity in a volcanic rock on the other side of Mars from where its twin, Opportunity, discovered signs that ground there had once been drenched. AP/Yahoo 3/5/04

Evidence of Water Found on Mars

NASA's Opportunity Rover has found definitive evidence that liquid water was once present in Meridiani Planum - enough water to provide a habitat suitable for life as we know it. Astrobiology Magazine 3/3/04

Mars plain once soaked in water, NASA says

Parts of Mars were once "drenched with water," so much that life could easily have existed there, NASA said on Tuesday. That does not mean that evidence of life has been found -- but it suggests that life could have evolved on Mars just as it did on Earth, NASA said. Reuters 3/2/04

NASA to release 'significant findings' from Mars rover mission

NASA today will announce "significant findings" in the history of water on Mars that were discovered by its Opportunity rover. It's been studying rocks and soil for evidence that the Red Planet was once a wetter place that could have been hospitable to life. AP/San Francisco Chronicle 3/1/04

February 2004

Water on Mars? Flood of Data, Trickle of Answers
Nobody on the Mars rover science teams expected quick answers. But now the reality of the task is clear. Pinning down whether there was ever standing or running water at the landing sites of the twin Mars rovers is going to take some time. And the eager public will just have to wait. 2/27/04

Mars Rovers explore hints of salty water. Much more analysis needed. But could it br brine that makes soil stick to Rover's wheels? news 2/9/04

January, 2004

Rover appears to find second hint of past water on Mars. Scientists still cautious. NY Times 1/31/04

NASA scientists discover what might be the most compelling evidence yet of rocks formed in water on Mars.  BBC NEWS 1/27/04

European mission confirms frozen water on Mars. Reuters 1/23/04

Rover rolls onto the surface of Mars, looking for evidence it once contained water. Scientists explain how the experiments will work. Bloomsburg/Press Enterprise 1/16/04

Mars Rover in quest for Grail:Signs of water from earlier age. NY Times 1/10/04

Mars scientists stay focused: follow the water. Reuters 1/5/04

Spirit lands safely on Mars. Search for proof of ancient water begins in a few days. Florida Today 1/4/04

Mars water
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