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Water on Mars August 1, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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If you follow science news, you most likely heard the news that the MarsPhoenix lander found water ice on Mars. Yay! You can read the official press release here, with some links to background about the mission and images.

After some troubles with getting the soil samples into the oven for analysis, it’s great news that not only a sample managed to be successfully collected but water was also found. Being involved in a space mission myself (the Mid-Infrared Instrument MIRI for the James Webb Space Telescope), I’m still amazed that we can get such sophisticated instrument into space – and they work! [On that note, an engineering model for MIRI is being tested in the UK right now, and once the exciting performance testing starts in late August, I’ll hopefully be able to blog updates from the lab.]

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1. designz23 - August 3, 2008

Ok, so there is water on mars. What else do scientists think need to be present to sustain life?

Is it tempature? – On earth we have life in the coldest and hottest parts.

I think now the chances of least some form of life existing on mars is pretty high.

2. Sarah - August 3, 2008

yep – that’s where it gets interesting! There are some fairly detailed definitions of what constitutes ‘life’ – a Wikipedia page conveniently lists them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life).

I agree that other life in the solar system is very likely but the problem is that we can only search for the kinds of life that we are faniliar with, i.e. that we know how to look for in the first place. The study of extremophiles has shown that life exists here on Earth in environments where we would never have thought it possible, like deep ocean trenches, volcanic vents etc. And what constitutes an ‘extreme’ environment here on Earth is still pretty moderate in terms of conditions on other solar system bodies!

3. Custom Valances - August 5, 2008

It’s good that the question has finally been answered. However, it’s not all that simple. They’ve also found an oxidizing substance that they say is “detrimental” to us. We’ve got a long way to go before we can actually see a benefit in the red planet.


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