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Mars Phoenix Lander Finds Ice?


Scientists acknowledged over the weekend that a slick, shiny surface discovered just beneath the Martian lander is likely the ice they have been searching for. The lander's retrorockets likely blew away a few inches of topsoil allowing the gleaming surface below to be visible:

"It's the consensus of all of us that we have found ice. It's shiny and smooth - it's absolutely astounding! It's not impossible that it's something else, but our leading interpretation is ice. We are looking at an extended table of ice."

As a result, the next set of discoveries are now possible: the building blocks of life, as well as some out-of-this-world margaritas.

The lander also left a human-looking 'footprint' in the Martian soil upon reaching out to touch it for the fist time. Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

Mars Orbiter Photographs Phoenix Mars Lander in Descent [tr]


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  1. Doesn't it look like the "footprint" is raised from the soil instead of embedded in it?

    Posted by: Paul R | Jun 2, 2008 4:39:44 PM

  2. How do they know it isn't frozen propellant or fuel?

    Posted by: anon | Jun 2, 2008 5:02:27 PM

  3. It could be frozen CO2

    The martian ice caps are supposedly pure frozen CO2. The temp is that cold

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jun 2, 2008 5:15:49 PM

  4. I'm not sure the lander would even use liquid fuel, as many of NASA's deep-space bots use the more efficient ion propulsion.

    Posted by: J. Allen | Jun 2, 2008 5:43:07 PM

  5. I hope it's one of those Carvel Cookie-Puss cakes.

    Posted by: Yeek | Jun 2, 2008 5:43:16 PM

  6. "for the fist time": interesting gaffe.

    CO2 ice is not shiny in the same way as water ice, but the real reason is that from orbit they detect high levels of hydrogen, which is part of H2O.

    It's not fuel as it does not lay on top of the soil, but has been uncovered, and is too flat.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 2, 2008 6:08:00 PM

  7. Ion propulsion is low-thrust-producing, but can be left "on" as long as there's sunlight or decaying plutonium on board to produce electricity to make the ions. Not practical for retro-rockets, though.

    Posted by: Chief Science Officer | Jun 2, 2008 6:29:35 PM

  8. Ion engines ? Absolutely not. Ion engines are extremely low thrust and suitable for low acceleration over long duration, not decelerating a spacecraft quickly to land on the surface. And there is still a propellant - ions are ionized particles. You have to move mass - F=MA.

    As it turns out, NASA's web site answers the question at hand: The Phoenix uses conventional hydrazine fuel in its thrusters.

    Will Phoenix's [sic] descent thrusters alter the compostion of it's landing site?

    Altering the chemistry of our landing site due to our thruster exhaust is unavoidable. The Phoenix Lander uses hydrazine, a hypergolic propellant that turns into ammonia during combustion. So essentially, we are spraying the surface with ammonia and a small amount of hydrazine that was not combusted. The way we get around that is by 1) knowing that we are going to be producing ammonia and 2) by designing the wet chemistry cells to carefully quantify the amount of ammonia in the regolith. We then use this information to interpret our other results.

    Posted by: anon2 | Jun 2, 2008 6:33:28 PM

  9. ^ nerd. ;)

    Posted by: John | Jun 2, 2008 6:50:11 PM

  10. Thanks Anon on the too shiny to be frozen CO2

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jun 2, 2008 6:56:30 PM

  11. John,
    Not all gay folk are florists and interior decorators. Some are engineers. It pays well and is challenging. The fact that you yourself are looking at space porn is a hopeful sign.

    Posted by: Alex | Jun 2, 2008 8:27:45 PM

  12. Almost 500 million dollars spent to get the Orbiter to Mars. Is it a priority? Spending on, say, satellite technology would be more useful,I think..

    Posted by: john | Jun 2, 2008 10:21:57 PM

  13. John

    The future is in space.

    The moon alone is possibly a treasure trove of H3. Think a big kinetic bang from a small amount. Energy source +++++ future space travel fuel. Also possible diamond dust litering its surface thanks to impacting metorites which can be utilized for industrial purposes

    Mars can be teraformed via a long and expensive endeavor netting us a very chilly temperate world with low gravity. A good Hard science read on the subject is Red mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars...a 3 book series. The red of the soil and rocks is thanks to abundent Oxygen which can be released via water which can be found in ice comets etc. The Co2 for a beneficial green house affect is already there in the polar caps. Nitrogen might be the only problem

    The asteroid belt out past mars is a myriad times earth material chock full of iron and other materials all waiting to be mined without poluting our mother planet.

    etc etc

    We have to get started on pushing outward and whatever the cost, it is worth it.

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jun 3, 2008 12:09:21 AM

  14. PS

    A teraformed mars = think the chillier parts of Canada with lower gravity= children born there would be tall, thin, have larger chests like some mountainous Mayan indian descendants do, etc. It would take decades upon decades upon decades to do it, but it would be worth it. Just trying to do it would stimulate inovation and technology here on earth while massively stimulating the economy.

    The Mars series I mentioned is by Kim Stanley Robinson

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Jun 3, 2008 12:14:59 AM

  15. I 'HEART' YEEK!!

    Posted by: TEGS | Jun 3, 2008 2:47:49 PM

  16. Why are people saying that it's "too shiny to be CO2"? From the images I've seen it looks fully consistent with all the dry ice I've seen here at home. Shout out to all my gay engineer / scientist peeps (I work with ultra high power lasers for a living, pew pew pew!).

    Posted by: Blake | Jun 4, 2008 12:19:05 AM

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