Mars Lander Finds Ice... or Salt

Scientist debate mysterious white substance
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2008 1:20 PM CDT
This image acquired by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Surface Stereo Imager on Friday, June 13, 2008, shows stripes of mysterious white material mixed in with the clumpy, reddish dirt of mars.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Phoenix Mars lander has found… well, something. While digging a pair of trenches on the Red Planet’s North Pole, the little robot sent back images of soil streaked with something white. Now scientists are wondering whether it’s the ice they’d hoped for, a salt deposit, or something else. If it’s ice, scientists expect it to transform from liquid to gas when the sun touches it.

“We think it’s ice,” said one scientist.  “But again, until we can see it disappear…we’re not guaranteed yet.” Even a salt deposit would be significant, however, because salt typically forms when water evaporates in the soil.