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European Probe Confirms Presence of Water on Mars - 2004-01-23

Scientists say an orbiting European space probe has confirmed there is water on Mars.

The scientists at the European Space Agency say the Mars Express orbiter has detected ice at the planet's south pole. And the scientists say that fuels their desire to discover if life has ever existed on Mars, as astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Bibring explained.

"The next step, of course, will be to get there, bring samples back to the Earth, because there might be fossils there," he said.

Mars Express used a spectrometer to analyze visible and infrared light to confirm the polar ice cap.

The results confirm tests by the U.S. Mars Odyssey orbiter in March, 2002, which detected hydrogen in the south pole region with a gamma ray spectrometer. Hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water, which is essential to support life.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency says it has all but given up on hearing from the lost Martian lander, Beagle 2.

The lander descended to the Martian surface on December 25 but has failed to send a radio signal that it landed safely. Beagle 2 is a small, British-built lab that was designed to look for signs of life on Mars.