We've Found Water on Mars—a 'Surprising Amount'

Two pints per cubic foot of soil, to be exact

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff | Suggested by BakeBrains

Posted Sep 27, 2013 7:18 AM CDT | Updated Sep 27, 2013 7:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you hear a dull roar, it's probably just the collective scream of science buffs the world over. NASA's Curiosity rover has found water in Mars' soil, and the BBC describes it as a "surprising amount." The find occurred at the hands of Curiosity, which scooped up a bit of dirt, heated it to 1535 degrees Fahrenheit, and found about 2% of that soil, by weight, was H2O, bound to other minerals. The news came from a series of five papers published in Science yesterday, and it's knowledge future astronauts can make real use of. "If you think about a cubic foot of this dirt and you just heat it a little bit—a few hundred degrees—you'll actually get off about two pints of water—like two water bottles you'd take to the gym," explains Curiosity researcher Laurie Leshin.

And it's not just the amount, but the extent, that's interesting: "This dirt on Mars ... seems to be about the same everywhere you go," says Leshin, meaning those astronauts could "quite easily extract water from almost anywhere." But Gizmodo shares a bit of a buzzkill. "We didn't find evidence of organic molecules in the soil. So, this doesn't have a very big bearing on the life on Mars discussion," Leshin explains. And the Guardian has a warning for those future visitors: The soil they'd be exposed to also contains perchlorate, which hinders thyroid function.

This photo released by NASA shows a self-portrait taken by the NASA rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars.
This photo released by NASA shows a self-portrait taken by the NASA rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This photo released by NASA shows a self-portrait taken by the NASA rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars.
This photo released by NASA shows a self-portrait taken by the NASA rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars.   (AP Photo/NASA)
This image provided by NASA shows a panoramic view from NASA's Mars Exploration rover Opportunity of Solander Point.
This image provided by NASA shows a panoramic view from NASA's Mars Exploration rover Opportunity of "Solander Point."   (AP Photo/NASA)
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