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Phoenix Spacecraft Confirms Water on Mars

Scientists working on NASA's Phoenix Mars lander have confirmed that there is water ice on the Red Planet. But they still have not found any evidence of life on Mars. VOA's Art Chimes reports

The Phoenix Mars Missionwas launched a year ago to look for water and the complex organic molecules that could be signs that life once existed on Mars.

Water had already been identified from a distance, by the Mars-orbiting Odyssey spacecraft, and Phoenix had photographed what was presumed to be melting ice at the landing site.

Phoenix landed on Mars two months ago. It is equipped with a telescoping arm to enable it to scoop up soil samples so they can be analyzed by the spacecraft's onboard instruments.

Although Phoenix is apparently sitting on top of a layer of ice just a few centimeters below the surface, the clumpy quality of the Martian soil made it difficult to retrieve a sample.

Finally, though, on Wednesday, Phoenix scientist William Boyton said they were able to analyze a soil sample and confirmed that it contained frozen water.

"We've now finally touched it and tasted it. That's one thing that hasn't been done before and I'd like to say from my standpoint, it tastes very fine, I'm very glad to be in this position"

Water, of course, is essential to life as we know it, but project scientist Peter Smith said they've found more than just water.

"We're also finding nutrients - sodium, potassium, magnesium, fluorides - things that we find in our own bodies and are definitely nutrients that are important for life. However, we have yet to discover organic materials."

Smith said it will be for future Mars missions to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars.

In the meantime, NASA has extended the Phoenix mission for another month, through the end of September.