Confirmed: There's Water On Mars

Analysis of the first scoop of topsoil picked up by NASA's Curiosity rover reveals a composition that includes two percent water. It could mean one less worry for future human visitors. 

What's the Latest Development?


A sample of Martian topsoil scooped by NASA's Curiosity rover last year and put into its onboard chemical laboratory has been found to contain water in quantities totaling two percent of its composition. The lab, named Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), used several instruments, including a mass spectrometer, to determine the makeup of the sample after it had been heated to just over 1,500° Fahrenheit. In addition to water, the sample contained perchlorates, which are toxic to humans but could be used as an energy source by certain kinds of microbes, further extending the possibility of life. Several papers describing Curiosity's findings were recently published in Science.

What's the Big Idea?

The data collected by SAM and Curiosity's other instruments "greatly advance our understanding of surface processes and the action of water on Mars," says SAM principal investigator Paul Mahaffy. Two percent of water may not seem like a lot, but for future missions, it could mean a great deal, says paper lead author and Rensselaer professor Laurie Leshin. "When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water."

Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Read it at Discovery News

Study: 50% of people pursuing science careers in academia will drop out after 5 years

That's a sharp increase from the 1960s when it took the same share of scientists an average of 35 years to drop out of academia.

Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • The study tracked the careers of more than 100,000 scientists over 50 years.
  • The results showed career lifespans are shrinking, and fewer scientists are getting credited as the lead author on scientific papers.
  • Scientists are still pursuing careers in the private sector, however there are key differences between research conducted in academia and industry.
Keep reading Show less

Why being busy is a modern sickness

We have to practice doing nothing more often.

Photo: Shutterstock
Personal Growth
  • Constantly being busy is neurologically taxing and emotionally draining.
  • In his new book, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes that you're doing a disservice to others by always being busy.
  • Busyness is often an excuse for the discomfort of being alone with your own thoughts.
Keep reading Show less

New ‘microneedle patch’ could help heart attack patients regrow tissue

The bold technique involves surgically implanting a so-called microneedle patch directly onto the heart.

Red human heart against a yellow background (Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • Heart attacks leave scar tissue on the heart, which can reduce the organ's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
  • The microneedle patch aims to deliver therapeutic cells directly to the damaged tissue.
  • It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but the method has shown promising signs in research on animals.
Keep reading Show less