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The analysis of water in the Martian regolith

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One of the scientific objectives of the Viking Mission to Mars was to accomplish an analysis of water in the Martian regolith. The analytical scheme originally envisioned was severly compromised in the latter stages of the Lander instrument package design. Nevertheless, a crude soil water analysis was accomplished. Samples from each of the two widely separated sites yielded roughly 1 to 3% water by weight when heated successively to several temperatures up to 500°C. A significant portion of this water was released in the 200° to 350°C interval indicating the presence of mineral hydrates of relatively low thermal stability, a finding in keeping with the low temperatures generally prevailing on Mars. The presence of a duricrust at one of the Lander sites is taken as possible evidence for the presence of hygroscopic minerals on Mars. The demonstrated presence of atmospheric water vapor and thermodynamic calculations lead to the belief that adsorbed water could provide a relatively favorable environment for endolithic organisms on Mars similar to types recently discovered in the dry antarctic deserts.

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Anderson, D.M., Tice, A.R. The analysis of water in the Martian regolith. J Mol Evol 14, 33–38 (1979).

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Key words

  • Water
  • Mars
  • Adsorbed water
  • Capillary water
  • Mineral hydrates-hygroscopic minerals
  • Endolithic organisms