It’s amazing news when it comes to the characteristics of other planets, but doesn’t bolster the idea of life in places besides Earth. It’s confirmed via samples taken from the Mars Curiosity rover under NASA’s control, that water attached to molecules is in the soil — a much more accessible place than the ice caps of Mars, or even closer to the core.
To find out all of this, the Mars Science Laboratory Team used a device known as the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM.
As lead author Laurie Leshin, dean of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, puts it, a baby aspirin-sized piece of the sample was fed into a tiny cup in Curiosity’s on-board laboratory, then heated to temperatures of 835 degrees Celsius (over 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit). The gases that came off revealed the discovery.
There are few caveats, however. First of all, this doesn’t confirm life on Mars — it only tells us that water is technically, in abundance, if we mine it from the soil. Secondly, the sample also revealed the presence of perchlorate, which can limit thyroid hormone production — a manageable risk, but one nonetheless.
But overall, this is awesome.