Exploration of Mars - follow the water – Københavns Universitet

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Exploration of Mars - follow the water

The exploration of Mars is centered on the unraveling of the history of water, since water is believed to be necessary for the origin and evolution of life, and because water will be a key resource for future manned missions to the planet.

Finally water seems to have played a role in the evolution of the surface and atmosphere on Mars, as it has on Earth. By studying Mars we can learn a lot about the evolution of our own planet both in the past and in the future.

Images from the orbiters Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show channels connecting higher and lower areas suggesting that liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars in the past. Gullies are another geological feature appearing on orbiter images and suggesting liquid water in the past.

Water under the surface

Today water is present at Mars mostly in the form of ice at the polar caps and in the underground. In 2001 observations by the gamma ray spectrometer on the Mars Odyssey Orbiter showed large amounts of subsurface water ice in the northern arctic plains.

This underground ice was the main reason the Phoenix mission in 2008 landed near the North Pole.

The lander provided conclusive evidence of the presence of water-ice in the subsurface by measuring the melting and boiling points of soil samples in a small oven.