During its first 100 Martian days (sols), NASA’s Curiosity rover had studied the atmosphere and soil of the red planet in some detail. The initial results from these studies trickled in on September 26 and 27, 2013, in a special issue of Science. The most significant find appeared to be that finer Martian soil had up to two pints of water per cubic foot, which the author of one of the studies called an “excellent resource for future explorers”. The water molecules appeared to be ‘locked up’ in amorphous minerals of basaltic origins. Another sign of water was the presence of carbonates, picked out when the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument heated a sample and found carbon dioxide among the vapours. Carbonates are usually formed in the presence of water. With the presence of methane having been declared trivial on the planet earlier this week, finding water rekindled hopes of the red planet having once harboured life. However, direct signs of this, such as organic molecules, remained elusive in the studies.

Read my report for The Hindu on this.

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, shown here at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, analysed the samples of material collected by the rover's arm.
The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, shown here at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, analysed the samples of material collected by the rover’s arm. Image: NASA-GSFC