June 24, 2008

Lander Finds Bits of Ice in Mars Soil

By the associated press

LOS ANGELES - Scientists believe NASA's Phoenix Mars lander exposed bits of ice while recently digging a trench in the soil of the Martian arctic, the mission's principal investigator said.

Crumbs of bright material initially photographed in the trench later vanished, meaning they must have been frozen water that vaporized after being exposed, Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a statement Thursday.

"These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice," Smith said. "There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."

Phoenix Mars is studying whether the arctic region of the Red Planet could be habitable. The probe is using its robotic arm to dig up soil samples, and scientists hope it will find frozen water.

However, an initial soil sample heated in a science instrument failed to yield evidence of water.

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