Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Martian soil contains water

Posted: September 30, 2013

Martian soil contains water

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on the Curiosity rover has found that the soil on Mars contains between 1.5 and 3 percent water.

Professor Sushil Atreya is a science team member for the SAM instrument. He says, “With SAM, we measured the hydrogen isotopes of water in the Rocknest sample, and found them to be nearly identical to those we measured previously with SAM in water molecules in the atmosphere of Mars. This indicates that the water in the windblown dust, sand and silt that make up the Rocknest sample represents water adsorbed from the atmosphere. The atmosphere has low relative humidity, so the amount of water in Rocknest is also low, about 2 percent, but a potential source of liquid water if needed.”

Rocknest is a sand patch in Gale crater on Mars.

The rover’s chemical camera, or ChemCam, has tested more than 100 targets in Rocknest and found that the dust contained consistent amounts of water regardless of the sampling area.

Atreya is co-author of a recent research article in Science magazine on SAM’s findings. You can view the article here.

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