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Water On Mars!

Well - - we have been anxiously awaiting the news all day although it wasn't much of a surprise as the news wires were saying all last weekend that the rovers were gathering information about water on Mars. Human beings reached a milestone in our understanding of the universe today, thanks in part to a hard-working robot. The NASA Mars rover Opportunity found evidence that an abundance of water once covered an area of the planet's surface. Where there was once water, it is presumed that there was once life--and that living things may in fact still exist on the red planet. At the press conference today NASA announced that indeed there is strong evidence for water presence on Mars.

Pictures from the rover's panoramic camera and microscopic imager reveal the target rock, dubbed "El Capitan," is thoroughly pocked with indentations about a centimeter (0.4 inch) long and one-fourth or less that wide, with apparently random orientations. This distinctive texture is familiar to geologists as the sites where crystals of salt minerals form within rocks that sit in briny water. When the crystals later disappear, either by erosion or by dissolving in less-salty water, the voids left behind are called vugs, and in this case they conform to the geometry of possible former evaporite minerals.

NASA March 2, 2004

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