What’s in the water in the German rover’s tank?
In an interview with German media, the European Space Agency’s Mars rover Curiosity has revealed some very cool facts about the water it has been collecting in its tank for its journey to Mars.
The rover, which was launched on September 6, 2018, is currently collecting samples for a scientific investigation to learn more about the Red Planet’s surface and possible habitability.
During its recent exploration, the rover has found evidence of water ice at different locations, including on a hillside near the landing site where it discovered evidence of ancient soil.
The results of its exploration so far, including the first-ever images of the surface, have been impressive, but it has still yet to learn everything about the Martian surface.
In an effort to learn the most about the ancient environment of Mars, Curiosity has been scooping up samples of the Martian atmosphere with its onboard camera, which is designed to gather data for future missions.
Curiosity is also looking at ancient minerals from Mars and the soil at the landing sites to learn about how the Red World has evolved.
One of the rover’s scientists, Dr. Wolfgang Stöcker, told a German newspaper that the water on the tank was mainly carbon dioxide and carbonate minerals, with trace amounts of nitrogen and oxygen.
“The amount of carbon dioxide in the sample was very low, so the amount of oxygen in the solution was very high, but not enough to form any organic matter,” Dr. Stöckers said.
“When we put it in the tank, the carbon dioxide dissolved in it and the oxygen was released.”
In fact, there was a lot of oxygen, Dr Stöber said, and the amount was so small that it didn’t even have a detectable effect on the Martian environment.
“But the carbonate is extremely reactive, so it could easily react with the water,” he added.
“So we didn’t detect any organic material.”
Another rover scientist, Dr Michael Günzel, also confirmed that there was some water in this tank, but he explained that it was not necessarily as carbonate as was first thought.
“It is not carbonate, but carbon dioxide, which can react with water and become an organic material,” he said.
When you take a sample of water, it becomes a solution, and this water can react, depending on the pH and its structure.
The carbonate ions are attracted to the water, which forms a stable carbonate carbonate mixture, which then forms a gel.
Dr. Günsler said that he was not surprised by the findings, and that it is quite a feat to extract carbonate from the water.
“This is the first time that we can say that there are traces of organic matter in the martian soil, as there were many times in the past when the soil was so dry that it would have been hard to find any organic substances,” he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
“I was amazed that there were trace amounts.
I did not expect that the carbonates were present in such small amounts.”
Dr. Peter Munk, the head of the Mars program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, also praised the scientists’ work on the Curiosity mission.
“We have a very good rover that is working in the right direction,” he explained.
“Its ability to collect samples of water and analyse the samples for organic matter is very impressive.
The water is so clean and pure, it was quite surprising that it could be carbon dioxide.”
It is important to note that the Mars sample, called “samples collected from a lakebed,” is not a Martian lake, and it is not even technically an underground sample.
It is instead a mix of soil and water.
The sample is only a fraction of the size of a typical martian lake, which ranges from 4 centimeters to 2 meters in diameter.
“There are about 100 lakes on Mars, and all of them have an average volume of about 0.7 cubic meters,” Dr Munk explained.
This means that in addition to being a sample, the water also contains the amount and type of organic compounds that the sample is composed of.
In a statement, NASA officials also stressed that the data gathered by the Curiosity is “the first evidence of past water on Mars,” adding that the rover “has the ability to explore the environment of the Red Planets at all times and all seasons.”
Curiosity has now returned a number of pictures and videos of the martians surface, which include images of what looks like a rock outcrop called “Rock A,” which is believed to be a type of sandstone.
“Rock B” is a similar-looking rock outcropping called “Frog.”
The rover is also sending out more images, and more videos, in the future.
In addition to its current activities on Mars and beyond, Curiosity is being used to learn much more about how Mars formed, and to understand the formation of the moon.
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