Mars Is Practically Drenched in Water

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Mars Is Practically Drenched in Water

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered consistent amounts of water in the Martian soil, implying that the red planet isn't so dry after all.

Thanks to its close proximity to Earth, scientists and laymen alike have long wondered why the surface of Mars is so different from our own. So far, our knowledge of the Martian surface suggests the planet once had an abundance of water, but eventually it dried up or remained frozen near the poles. When NASA sent the Curiosity rover to Mars, part of its mission was to find evidence of this water, along with any signs of organic life. Based on Curiosity's findings, we'll have to change "once had an abundance of water" to "still has an abundance". While it's true that Mars has a distinct lack of lakes, around 2% of the soil actually contains good old H20, implying that the planet isn't nearly as dry as one might expect.

Since 2012, the Curiosity rover has been studying the Gale Crater, a landmark located near the Martian equator. One of the rover's programmed tasks is to gather samples of soil from the ground, heat them to 835C using an internal oven, and measure the results. Along with the sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and oxygen released from the soil, a surprising 1.5 to 3% of each sample consisted of water. That's about two pints of liquid for each cubic foot of Martian dirt.

"We tend to think of Mars as this dry place - to find water fairly easy to get out of the soil at the surface was exciting to me," said Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's dean of science, Laurie Leshin. "If you took about a cubic foot of the dirt and heated it up, you'd get a couple of pints of water out of that - a couple of water bottles' worth that you would take to the gym." [NOTE: The soil still contains a toxic chemical that impedes thyroid function. Please don't drink Martian water at the gym.]

So how did all this water get here? Scientists suspect that billions of years ago, the entire Gale Crater was flooded with enough fresh water to reach depths of over a kilometer. That's impressive enough, but what's really exciting is how well the soil has retained the water and how easily it can be retrieved. If NASA ever gets around to building that Martian settlement, astronauts should be able to use the soil water as a drinkable resource. After it's taken care of the sulphur dioxide and toxic chemicals, of course.

Source: Science, via The Guardian

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Honestly it seems settling mars is more pain then it's worth.

Calling it: Mars's surface is a secret cover for a planet that's innards are actually made of water, where Mermaid like creatures live planning to strike the Earth.

This is pretty neat news, actually.

awesome stuff.

but we should build a moonbase first.

and screw NASA...lets talk geological survey and selling claims to private enterprise...we have to monetise the process beyond the scientific research...

Wouldn't it be easier to launch a colonization effort from the moon than from Earth?

I don't know about space travel logistics but I guess we really need to work a cost-effective way of getting stuff out of the atmosphere before we can look at any long-term plans for colonizing other planets.

Still, the idea that water is available "reliably" (as in you can essentially extract it from anywhere) on Mars is a great boon for potential colonization efforts.

Now we just have to watch out for J'onn J'onnzz.

Also, use the martian soil to produce liquid hydrogen for flights back to Earth (saw a paper on this yesterday actually).

Another option that is being put forward is to release greenhouse gasses into the martian atmosphere, to create global warming on the planet, which would melt the polar ice caps, releasing tons of more carbon into the atmosphere that would heat the planet further, causing the water to evaporate out of the surface forming clouds, heating the planet even further, and then stabilising it with a new, functioning weather system that just needs plantlife to really kick things off. (Another paper, isn't science cool!)

Abomination:
Wouldn't it be easier to launch a colonization effort from the moon than from Earth?

I don't know about space travel logistics but I guess we really need to work a cost-effective way of getting stuff out of the atmosphere before we can look at any long-term plans for colonizing other planets.

Still, the idea that water is available "reliably" (as in you can essentially extract it from anywhere) on Mars is a great boon for potential colonization efforts.

Moon first is a great idea. its got water, oxygen (in the rock) iron, aluminium, titanium, and various other mineral deposits.

what you do is send something like a tunnel boring machine and drill into the moon and basically you (at least partly) pressurise the hole that is the mine your working on and you've got the basis of your initial moonbase/production facility...

i'm talking a full scale commercial enterprise. an on site chemical/metal works full of roughnecks...the whole deal...with help of a few bits and bobs here and there sent up from Earth ofc

that's what we really need to do; to go an' build.

then you start building ships to tour the solar system at leisure :)

ion drive/nuclear power, built on and launched from the Moon.

Bobs your uncle.

now some smart arse will come tell me all the reasons we can't do that...

So colonising Mars is sustainable? NASA, get it done!

To the people asking why not the moon first? Helium-3. Mars has it. The moon not so much. We thought it had it but it turns out to be too sparsely pocketed for a profitable mining operation. If we ever get fusion working, the stuff is gonna be the new oil. Granted all those valuable rocks on moon are worth chasing, but just remember that if we want Helium-3, Mars is the closest place that has it.

erttheking:
To the people asking why not the moon first? Helium-3. Mars has it. The moon not so much. We thought it had it but it turns out to be too sparsely pocketed for a profitable mining operation. If we ever get fusion working, the stuff is gonna be the new oil. Granted all those valuable rocks on moon are worth chasing, but just remember that if we want Helium-3, Mars is the closest place that has it.

I thought Fusion power worked on the basis of using Deuterium as the catalyst?

Isn't that exceedingly easy to obtain due to it coming from sea water? If that is the case, it will be extremely difficult to justify conflict or monetizing of this resource, due to it being like.....Everywhere.

bfgmetalhead:

erttheking:
To the people asking why not the moon first? Helium-3. Mars has it. The moon not so much. We thought it had it but it turns out to be too sparsely pocketed for a profitable mining operation. If we ever get fusion working, the stuff is gonna be the new oil. Granted all those valuable rocks on moon are worth chasing, but just remember that if we want Helium-3, Mars is the closest place that has it.

I thought Fusion power worked on the basis of using Deuterium as the catalyst?

Isn't that exceedingly easy to obtain due to it coming from sea water? If that is the case, it will be extremely difficult to justify conflict or monetizing of this resource, due to it being like.....Everywhere.

Yeah it's in the water, the problem is that it's not nearly as common as it could be, not to mention filtering out is a pain in the ass.

Huh, I wonder how that compares to earth. And if it's a lot of water why isn't it pooling anywhere.

Wow, that was surprisingly depressing....

I mean it's exciting that water is basically saturating the planet but what depresses me is "why do I have to be alive now?" I would much rather be alive in two or three thousand years, it would be so interesting, being able to go to Mars like we go to the shop.... "honey, I'm going to work" means going to mass effect 3 type Mars. What tech will there be? Will world hunger be solved by replicators?

Does beat growing up two or three thousand years ago though.

Think of all arguments future people will have "should people live off planet?", "who owns Mars (to enforce laws etc?) .... Maybe further into the future will relationships be an issue again? We've got a little passed inter-racial and we are currently getting gay marriage accepted, will inter-species be another polarising issue that will be accepted eventually?

Did they only survey the soil in the crater? If they did then it doesn't necessarily mean the entire planet has water in the soil, it could just be that that crater in particular was a good place for water to hang around longer than everywhere else. Still, it's a good sign for Buggalo farmers.

I gladly rub this bit of news in the face of anyone who bitched and complained and made 'cute' remarks about the US launching this rover in the first place.

"Yay, we launched a space SUV meanwhile there's shit that need's to be done here wah wah"

We learned that Mars's soil is saturated with WATER.
So sit down and shut up. : )

Sorry, I'm just rather passionate about these things.

Eric the Orange:
Huh, I wonder how that compares to earth. And if it's a lot of water why isn't it pooling anywhere.

Ditto. Though for why it isn't pooling, perhaps because Mars is more absorbent than Earth? Kind of like soft Great Plains dirt vs tough mountain clay.

piinyouri:
I gladly rub this bit of news in the face of anyone who bitched and complained and made 'cute' remarks about the US launching this rover in the first place.

"Yay, we launched a space SUV meanwhile there's shit that need's to be done here wah wah"

We learned that Mars's soil is saturated with WATER.
So sit down and shut up. : )

Sorry, I'm just rather passionate about these things.

Not to mention NASA gets a fraction of the funding any of our other oh-so-successful programs get. I would daresay the space program has an exponentially greater return on investment than almost anything, if not everything, else we fund.

Okay, this is interesting. However, shouldn't Earth have a much higher saturation on average? 70% of the planet is water, and life needs it to survive. Not to mention rainfall and other such factors. I would think Earth soil would probably be higher on average.

All the same, hearing that the ball of dust is not as dusty as we think is cool. So, when can I buy my martian condo? Will we be seeing Martian Water for sell in stores? Where are the green ladies? I was promised green ladies! Blue would suffice, in a pinch, I suppose.

LetalisK:

Eric the Orange:
Huh, I wonder how that compares to earth. And if it's a lot of water why isn't it pooling anywhere.

Ditto. Though for why it isn't pooling, perhaps because Mars is more absorbent than Earth? Kind of like soft Great Plains dirt vs tough mountain clay.

It could be, but I'd suggest it's more Mar's thin atmosphere and temperature than anything else. Remember that the lower the atmospheric pressure the lower the temperature needed for water to boil. There's another process which I forget the name of that's similar to the effect you see with lakes and fog that could account for the lack of surface water as well. So I'd suggest that any water that could of been surface is most likely all in Mar's atmosphere.

I've always found Mars to be a bit of a puzzle. It one time it had a denser atmosphere, surface water, and everything needed for life to exist. Then it lost it's atmosphere to the solar wind and eventually reached the state it's currently in. I've often used Mars as a example of the rare Earth concept. Mars should of been fine for life, but it lacks a large iron core. Which produces less internal movement so there is very little tectonic forces and more importantly a very small magnetic field to protect from the solar wind.
So how important was the moon's collision with Earth towards making our planet viable for life? Did Earth capture the majority of the moon's iron? Did the collision and iron exchange kick start tectonic forces into play? If we had never had the collision would Earth be the same Earth today, or more Mars like?

hey my rover is exploring the gale crater at the moment in take on mars :D

First 3% is a tiny amount, it's nothing compared to the percentage of H20 on earth. That being said, it's still huge because any amount of water means you can set up a base on the planet much easier (since you need to transplant much less materials). Mars has nearly the same gravity as earth, which means you could have humans live in enclosed bases...and resupply with water/minerals etc from outside (instead of from Earth). That is pretty big...especially if you had machines etc that you used to slowly terraform the planet till you actually had a breathable atmosphere for humans (Which would take a long time...but at least has some possibility if you can have manned stations there.

The moon is our construction base basically...or should be. The order of steps pretty much should be:

Decent sized space station revolving around earth for construction of items and storage before transportation to the moon.

Moon base (enclosed decent sized base on the moon with atmosphere) and mining operations on the moon (allowing you to construct space ships and get them into space without having to use all the fuel it takes to get them out of the earths atmosphere).

Mars colonization (initially within enclosed bases, but slowly work to terraform mars over time, using both resources from earth and the moon).

That would be the long term plans pretty much...but we are not even close to the first stage yet (decent sized space station for construction) and have no current plans at all for setting stations on the moon, or mining for metals/minerals etc there.

The news about mars is promising though as it drastically reduces the amount of resources we would have to send in order to have people stay on mars for an extended period of time. Considering how long it takes to get there/back...this is extremely important. In fact, we could send robotic units to collect materials and store it in advance (much like the rover)....so that when we did finally send a manned ship...there would be plenty of supplies to be picked up and used when they got there.

It's great news.....if we were actually moving in a direction at all that could use it right now. As it is....it's not just us that won't see any of this being used in our lifetimes......nobody alive (even babies) will probably see it.

Curiosity has an internal oven that can heat stuff up to 835c? Am I the only one who is amazed by this more than Mars having more water than we thought?

omega 616:

Think of all arguments future people will have "should people live off planet?", "who owns Mars (to enforce laws etc?) .... Maybe further into the future will relationships be an issue again? We've got a little passed inter-racial and we are currently getting gay marriage accepted, will inter-species be another polarising issue that will be accepted eventually?

It's an interesting prospect. Personally I think that if relationships with alien species ever becomes an issue, all the debates about gay relationships will evaporate overnight. Even the most right leaning religious people will turn their attention to the new "abomination", it will be a curious political landscape where you might find the most out and proud gay people lining up with Westboro types to denounce alien lovers as the most hideous thing ever. Mutual hatred towards another group is ironically a pretty unifying thing.

Personally though, I'm all for going all Captain Kirk on other civilizations. Sex on a first date? Try sex on first contact!

Oh, erm... yeah. Water on Mars. That's pretty cool too.

Dibs, I call dibs on that water, you all heard me right? International rule of dibs still applies when we're talking about stuff on other planets right? Who cares dibs.

Mr.Mattress:
Calling it: Mars's surface is a secret cover for a planet that's innards are actually made of water, where Mermaid like creatures live planning to strike the Earth.

This is pretty neat news, actually.

More like keep us out of there. Why invade our crappy planet? Honestly humans suck :P

I'm pretty sure there was a Doctor Who episode where a group of scientists working at a Mars based research facility began turning into a mindless zombies after drinking Martian water.

This will be our reward should Martian settlers fail to listen to the wisdom of Doctor Who.

image

Yuuki:
Curiosity has an internal oven that can heat stuff up to 835c? Am I the only one who is amazed by this more than Mars having more water than we thought?

That was my first reaction too! My second reaction was, I wonder if it carries around a little frozen meal just in case it does come across intelligent life and doesn't want to be rude. Imagine it, "People of Mars! The human race has developed incredibly sophisticated technology in order to bridge the vast distances between our planets. And, we brought lasagna!"

Fanghawk:
That's impressive enough, but what's really exciting is how well the soil has retained the water and how easily it can be retrieved. If NASA ever gets around to building that Martian settlement, astronauts should be able to use the soil water as a drinkable resource. After it's taken care of the sulphur dioxide and toxic chemicals, of course.

Drinkable water may be out of the question, but with enough CO2 in the atmosphere that can be valuable farmland.

The only matter is dragging an entire planet closer to the Sun, but we still have 800 million years to get the technology down.

Higgs303:
I'm pretty sure there was a Doctor Who episode where a group of scientists working at a Mars based research facility began turning into a mindless zombies after drinking Martian water.

This will be our reward should Martian settlers fail to listen to the wisdom of Doctor Who.

image

How did I bloody know someone was going to reference THAT?!?

Eric the Orange:
And if it's a lot of water why isn't it pooling anywhere.

This is a great question, and it has to do with the way water can stick inside certain materials. Just like a sponge can soak up liquid water into all its many holes and passageways, so too can a rock trap individual molecules in within ever smaller pores.

Crank up the temperature to 600-800 C or so, and all those locked-in molecules go POOF- free gaseous water.

RaNDM G:

Fanghawk:
That's impressive enough, but what's really exciting is how well the soil has retained the water and how easily it can be retrieved. If NASA ever gets around to building that Martian settlement, astronauts should be able to use the soil water as a drinkable resource. After it's taken care of the sulphur dioxide and toxic chemicals, of course.

Drinkable water may be out of the question, but with enough CO2 in the atmosphere that can be valuable farmland.

The only matter is dragging an entire planet closer to the Sun, but we still have 800 million years to get the technology down.

no. you just need to get more greenhouse gases in there with some mirrors.

image

Mr.Mattress:
Calling it: Mars's surface is a secret cover for a planet that's innards are actually made of water, where Mermaid like creatures live planning to strike the Earth.

This is pretty neat news, actually.

let them come.

we have axe cop.
image

rhizhim:
image

It's stuff like that that makes me the saddest for having a puny mortal lifespan. Back to the research to get my consciousness uploaded to the internets..

erttheking:
To the people asking why not the moon first? Helium-3. Mars has it. The moon not so much. We thought it had it but it turns out to be too sparsely pocketed for a profitable mining operation. If we ever get fusion working, the stuff is gonna be the new oil. Granted all those valuable rocks on moon are worth chasing, but just remember that if we want Helium-3, Mars is the closest place that has it.

You mean... You mean we will never build GERTY?

Now you made me sad.

Mr.Mattress:
Calling it: Mars's surface is a secret cover for a planet that's innards are actually made of water, where Mermaid like creatures live planning to strike the Earth.

Until they perfect their rendition of "Under the Sea", we're good.

This is amazing, curiosity is really changing our perception of Mars. This mission might be the first step to eventual colonization of the planet!

Meanwhile media is occupied with sports, celebrity news and meaningless politics -.-

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