It’s a great day for science! NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has discovered a wealth of water stored inside the dirt of the Red Planet, which might play a significant role in future explorations of Mars. A new study published on September 26th suggests that astronauts who venture to Mars one day will be able to extract any water they need from the sand and dirt on the planet’s floor.
The Mars rover Curiosity recently revealed that the soil on Mars’ surface holds almost 2% water. According to Laurie Leshin of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the study’s lead author, this means that every cubic foot of Mars dirt could provide future astronauts with about 1 liter of water.
Leshin said that, for her personally, the discovery “was a big ‘wow’ moment,” and she explained that there was likely water saturating all of the soil on Mars. “I was really happy when we saw that there’s easily accessible water here in the dirt beneath your feet. And it’s probably true anywhere you go on Mars.”
Since landing in August 2012, Curiosity’s main mission has been to find out if Mars could ever be capable of supporting life. The rover discovered in March of this year that there was a location near its original landing spot where life was supported billions of years in the past.
But Curiosity has been hard at work since completing its mission several months age. The rover performed detailed soil analyses of dirt on Mars to determine that carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfur and water were all present in the soil of the Red Planet.
However, Curiosity has also made some discoveries that may hinder future exploration to Mars, including the presence of perchlorate, which is bad news for humans.
“That’s the reason we send robotic explorers before we send humans—to try to really understand both the opportunities and the good stuff, and the challenges we need to work through,” said Leshin.