U.S. Water News Online
PASADENA, California -- NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has
found evidence that vast regions of Mars may abound in water -- a
discovery that bolsters the theory that life once existed on the Red
The water is believed to be ice mixed in with the dirt, dust and
rock that form the top 3 feet of the planet's surface, according to
The water probably accounts for just a few percent by mass of the
surface of Mars, but covers a vast area that stretches from the
frozen southern polar cap northward to about 60 degrees south
``The signal we have been getting loud and clear is there is a lot
of ice on Mars,'' said William Boynton of the University of Arizona
at Tucson. He is chief scientist for the spacecraft instrument that
measures the abundance of hydrogen, a likely indicator of the
presence of water.
Scientists have long known that there is water on Mars. However,
the suggestion that it is present in such quantities could bolster
the theory that the planet could have harbored life. Water is
considered a necessary ingredient for life.
The results, the first science data from Odyssey, were presented
at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, which manages the $300 million mission.
``The results are exceeding our expectations,'' said Roger Gibbs,
the Odyssey deputy project manager for JPL.
Odyssey, even though it is less than two weeks into a mapping
mission expected to last at least 917 days, is already changing
scientists' view of the planet, said R. Stephen Saunders, Odyssey
project scientist for JPL.
The spacecraft is intended to map the chemical and elemental
makeup of the Martian surface and hunt for water and hot springs that
could indicate geothermal activity. Another instrument, designed to
measure the planet's radioactive environment and the risks it may
hold for any future astronauts, has malfunctioned.
However, initial data collected before the instrument ceased
working suggests that en route to Mars, astronauts would be bombarded
with about twice as much radiation as are the crew members orbiting
the Earth aboard the international space station, said Frank
Cucinotta, chief scientist for the Mars radiation experiment.
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