Washington, July 3 (ANI): Findings by NASA's Phoenix Mars mission indicates that the Red Planet had a wetter and warmer climate in the recent past, and could again in the future.
Phoenix ended communications in November 2008 as the approach of Martian winter depleted energy from the lander's solar panels.
"Not only did we find water ice, as expected, but the soil chemistry and minerals we observed lead us to believe this site had a wetter and warmer climate in the recent past - the last few million years - and could again in the future," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
A paper about Phoenix water studies, for which Smith is the lead author with 36 coauthors from six nations, cites clues supporting an interpretation that the soil has had films of liquid water in the recent past.
The evidence for water and potential nutrients "implies that this region could have previously met the criteria for habitability" during portions of continuing climate cycles, according to the researchers.
The mission's biggest surprise was finding a multi-talented chemical named perchlorate in the Martian soil.
"This Phoenix finding caps a growing emphasis on the planet's chemistry," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who has 10 coauthors on a paper about Phoenix's soluble-chemistry findings.
"The study of Mars is in transition from a follow-the-water stage to a follow-the-chemistry stage," Hecht said. "With perchlorate, for example, we see links to atmospheric humidity, soil moisture, a possible energy source for microbes, even a possible resource for humans," he added. (ANI)