NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds 2% of Soil on Surface of Mars is Water

Posted on September 29, 2013

NASA Curiosity Rover trenches

NASA's Curiosity rover has found that approximately 2% of the soil on the surface of Mars is water. The results were published in Science magazine. The image above shows trenches Curiosity dug in October 2013 at the Rocknest site on Mars.

Laurie Leshin, lead author of one paper and dean of the School Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in a release, "One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil. About 2 percent of the soil on the surface of Mars is made up of water, which is a great resource, and interesting scientifically."

Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite was used to measure the Martian sole. It contains a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer and a tunable laser spectrometer. SAM heated the dust, dirt and fine soil to 1,535 degrees F (835 C). You can read more about NASA's findings after analyzing the soil sample here.

The water finding is more upbeat than the other recently announced finding - that the Martian environment lacks methane. Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, said in a that release, "This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars. It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism. As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don't generate methane."

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS