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01 Jun 2008 07:48
Scientists say they may have discovered ice on Mars. They have reported that when soil was blown away as Nasa’s Phoenix robot spacecraft descended and landed on the Red Planet last Sunday, it may have exposed an outcrop of ice according to images taken near one of the probe’s footpads.
“We could very well be seeing rock, or we could be seeing exposed ice in the retrorocket blast zone,” said mission investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St Louis.
Phoenix‘s prime purpose is to seek out ice beneath the Martian surface, and the robot spaceship is scheduled to spend the next three months on the surface of the planet searching for signs of water there. The prospect that the probe might have already succeeded, after only a few days on the planet, is causing considerable excitement among scientists.
Phoenix is built from equipment left over from two previous Mars missions that crashed as they approached the planet. The probe is equipped with a robot arm for scraping into the Martian soil in a search for water and other chemicals that might indicate primitive life forms once thrived on Mars.—Â
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