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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.

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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. (Read more Mars stories.)

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