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Ice on Mars


Water has long been considered important to the development of life. That is why scientists are so interested in finding water in our solar system. Now, the American space agency has confirmed that there is water ice on the planet Mars.

The discovery is a major step in the search for the conditions for life on the red planet. The discovery was made with the help of an American spacecraft, the Phoenix Mars Lander. The spacecraft landed on the extreme north of Mars on May twenty-fifth. In two thousand two, the space agency's Mars Odyssey spacecraft made observations suggesting that large amounts of water could be found there.

The Phoenix Mars Lander has a robotic arm for digging. On June fifteenth, it dug a hole about seven centimeters deep in the Martian soil. The hole contained small particles of a light-colored substance. Scientists wondered whether the substance was frozen carbon dioxide, salt or water ice.

Pictures showed that the particles were still there one day later. But by June nineteenth, the particles had disappeared. Scientists believe
the pieces must have evaporated, which they would not have done if they were salt. The pieces also remained solid longer than they would have if they were carbon dioxide. That was enough evidence for the American space agency to announce that water ice had finally been directly observed on Mars.

Doug McCuistion is director of the space agency's Mars Program. He said the discovery proved that the agency's plan to "follow-the-water" in its explorations of the planet had been a success.

However, scientists already know much more about the soil of Mars than they did before. Sam Kounaves is lead scientist for the wet chemistry investigation for the Lander. He says the soil is very similar to soil found in dry valleys in Antarctica. Mister Kounaves says early results show that the soil contains a number of nutrients needed for life as we
know it.

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