Curiosity analysis shows Mars soil sample 2 percent water

Sept. 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM
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TROY, N.Y., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- An analysis of one of the first soil samples taken by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity found a high percentage of water, U.S. researchers said.

"One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil," said Laurie Leshin, dean of Science at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York and lead author of one study focusing on analyzing the rover's samples.

"About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically," Leshin said in a release issued by RPI.

In the study, scientists used the Rover's scoop to collect dust, dirt, and finely grained soil and fed portions of it into Curiosity's instrument, Sample Analysis at Mars. Inside SAM, the dust, dirt, and fine soil were heated to 835 degrees Celsius.

The sample also released significant carbon dioxide, oxygen, and sulfur compounds when heated, researchers said.

Leshin said the sample was the first analyzed with the instruments on Curiosity.

"This is the first solid sample that we've analyzed with the instruments on Curiosity. It's the very first scoop of stuff that's been fed into the analytical suite. Although this is only the beginning of the story, what we've learned is substantial," said Leshin, who co-wrote "Volatile, Isotope and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover." Thirty-four researchers, all members of the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, contributed to the paper published in the journal Science.

"We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars," Leshin said. "When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water."

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