Phoenix Finds No Water on Mars Surface… So Far

Article written: 16 Jun , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

The results are now in from the first sample of Mars regolith to be baked in Phoenix’s oven. It’s not good news… there’s no water. After a difficult time of actually delivering the sample to the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) – a.k.a. the “oven” – scientists were hopeful for a clear science run. They were finally able to sift the clumpy regolith through the TEGA screen last week. However, the sample was waiting on the deck of Phoenix for some time until tests could be carried out on the sample; it seems probable that any water ice will have sublimed into the thin atmosphere. This first null result by no means suggests the area is devoid of water, Phoenix has many more water-finding tricks up its sleeves yet…

On June 11th, Phoenix mission control breathed a sigh of relief as they found a solution to the problem of getting the clumpy Mars regolith through the oven screen. Over the weekend they were able to carry out the first tests on the sample and it appears that everything functioned as it should when the sample was heated to 35°C (95°F). At this temperature any water in the sample will have melted. In the second phase of the test, the sample was heated up to 175°C (350°F). No water vapour was detected.

We saw no water coming off the soil whatsoever” – William Boynton, TEGA team leader, University of Arizona.

Scientists are in no way surprised or discouraged about this early result. The regolith sample sat atop the lander’s TEGA hatch for several days whilst scientists tried to find an answer as to why no particles had fallen into the oven. It is believed that any water ice in the sample will have quickly vaporized in the Martian sunlight and thin atmosphere. As the atmospheric pressure is so low on Mars, exposed water ice cannot melt into liquid water, it will sublime straight to water vapour (by-passing the liquid phase).

Over the coming days, scientists will instruct Phoenix to fire up the TEGA again to heat the sample to 1000°C (1800°F). This will vaporize minerals that might be chemically bound to H2O, CO2 or SO2 and then use instrumentation to measure the vented gases. Scientists are very confident that, although water has not been directly detected today, they will detect evidence of its existence in the next round of tests.

Whilst the drama unfolds in the lander’s oven, Phoenix continues its excavation work on the surface with its robotic arm. It has just expanded a trench (a 3D visualization can be seen at the top of this post) by linking the two trenches “Dodo” and “BabyBear” into a new united “Dodo-Goldilocks” trench. This is the location where scientists noticed white sediment last Friday, so they will be keen to learn whether this is water or salt.

Source: Space.com


44 Responses

  1. Ralph Rewes says

    Send a probe to the Atacama desert in Chile, and you will say the same thing.

    Give me a break. NASA is not serious.

  2. Ralph Rewes says

    Why the probe was not sent to the polar ice caps.

    You might lose it splashing. Yeah, the splash was a better answer than these ones NASA is giving. Then the expenses would have paid back.

  3. Astrofiend says

    Water or no water – any result is a good result.

    But yeah, as you said, there was never going to be water in this first sample even if it was present to start with due to sublimation. Keep the results coming Phoenix!

  4. Sps says

    Wha?…. Ralphy lost me on that one.

  5. Estuardo says

    Who is this Ralph Rewes character? Is he serious, or just playing silly buggers?

  6. kongaman says

    Maybe it’s time we stopped sifting for a few
    measley bits of water and organics on Mars,
    a planet that has been dead for a very long
    time and probably never had life to begin with,
    and start focusing on worlds that have global
    oceans of liquid water 60 miles deep if we
    want a better chance of finding alien life.

    Like a certain moon of Jupiter.

    And one probe that just sits in one spot
    on Mars and is unable to move and that
    is considered a useful exploration tool?

  7. Steve says

    Kongaman,
    I humbly agree with your suggestion of taking a crack at Europa, but the technology just isn’t there.

    First, we have no idea whatsoever, at how thick the ice layer actually is

    Second, we have no real way to power the craft to melt its way through that much ice without it taking an extremely long time.

    Three, we also have no know technology that will be able to handle the immense pressure of the interior of a moon

    Four, we have to look at other factors such as our own contamination leaking into a potential environment where there is a remote possibility that life could evolve.

    With that in mind, Mars is not a waste. Any research is a step in the right direction, regardless if it turns up the results we want or not

  8. Smithins says

    That’s even if the Mars lander is actually on Mars. It might be in the same desert from which the Apollo mission in 1969 was shot.

  9. Learner says

    I don’t think our scientists are really ready to see an alien. What would have happened if the Mars rover shoveled up dirt and uncovered a sleeping giant…..”eggplant”….or something?? I don’t think we’d be prepared for that. I doubt they’ve even considered the possibility. They’re sifting dirt looking for microscopic particles not fossils or buried civilizations. Every step the scientists take is progress toward bigger steps.

    I agree with the comment about “contamination” of another world. If there’s any indication at all, of organic life somewhere, we should treat it with the utmost respect. I’m hoping in my lifetime to hear of organic life somewhere out there, but it better not take too long….I won’t live forever.

  10. Member

    Thanks RL, comment removed 🙂

    Cheers, Ian

  11. Timothy Bladel says

    Smithins Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 12:23 am
    That’s even if the Mars lander is actually on Mars. It might be in the same desert from which the Apollo mission in 1969 was shot.
    —————————
    You got to be kidding me man. You don’t believe we made it to the moon yet. wow conspircy

  12. Learner says

    Wasn’t that a movie?? Capricorn One??? Right, Hal Holbrook….he really started something.

  13. Random Jon says

    Timothy Bladel Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 1:09 am
    You got to be kidding me man. You don’t believe we made it to the moon yet. wow conspircy

    Erm, Van Allen belts? When a space shuttle approached the Belts on a recent high-level research experiment, all the radiation alarms went off and the pilots reported seeing “flashes” as escaped, highly-energetic particles passed through their brains, and they were still HUNDREDS OF MILES away from the boundary of the first (weaker) belt. Your only defences, should you want to try, would be a; lead shield, a number of inches thick, a concrete shield a number of FEET thick, or maybe an inch of gold all the way round the inhabited quarters. Other than that, you wanna borrow my tin-foil hat? I’d wear it somewhere-else if I were you…

  14. Jeanette says

    If NASA where actually serious about exploring Mars(which they’re not) they’d have set down in the middle of Cydonia and started exploring there.

  15. RL says

    Ian, please remove the previous post. There shouldn’t be that kind of language on this website.

    The level of discourse has notably dropped lately on this and other threads. I would suggest ignoring anyone who engages in troll like behavior or tries to hijack a thread.

  16. Matt says

    “When a space shuttle approached the Belts on a recent high-level research experiment, all the radiation alarms went off and the pilots reported seeing “flashes” as escaped, highly-energetic particles passed through their brains, and they were still HUNDREDS OF MILES away from the boundary of the first (weaker) belt.”

    I’d sure like to see your source for that claim.
    Anyway, instead of a world wide massive conspiracy of all scientists and engineers, maybe you should apply Occam’s razor:
    Use http://www.wwheaton.com/waw/mad/mad19.html for further reference.

  17. neoguru says

    They may find water as a hydrate, but don’t be surprised if no “unbonded water” is ever found. I’ve never understood how liquid water could have ever existed on Mars. It makes no sense. It’s WAY too cold and there’s no evidence that the Sun was ever warmer then it is now. The erosion channels are indeed a mystery, but I predict they were not formed by liquid water – I ain’t gotta clue how, though….

  18. Chris Belk says

    The reason they will not find water is because the Phoenix lander would actually have to be on MARS to conduct the test.

    The Lander is in Area 51 as with every image they’ve ever sent from a moon walk or Mar landers.

    The editors failed to delete the image of one of the antenna that are spread through out the site.

    Images don’t lie.

    The fact they can show color images of the dirt inside the craft but are “unable” to show us color images out outside, is one of the in your face, what you gonna do actions NASA is famous for.

    The masking of the sky, the leveling of the horizon to make it look flat, are clearly seen in all their so called Mars images. (Photoshop 098, at your local college)

    There may be something on MARS but what they release is much like the Apollo images. Studio released garbage, made by Rookie losers that couldn’t make it in a real animation studio. (probably because once you know they have to kill ya, so they probably roll through a lot of people)

    Same with the recent “Space Walk” images.

    One thing about 3d design and imaging as realized in early 3d movies. It’s hard to add imperfections to make things look real.

    Also hasn’t anyone ever looked at the earth on any space walk, and Apollo missions? What is missing? You tell me. I know someone has to look once in a while.

    The rookie 3d animators at NASA need to ask Pixar to help them. Oh yeah that would mean spending money. All their money is for above top secret missions.

    (Above top secret = Enemy of the state)

    Nasa stands for… Not Actually (a) Space Agency

    Where the money is going? Probably the same place FEMAs money is going…

    I’m not tell you, you need to figure that one out yourself. If you knew you’d be pretty upset and scared.

    The time is short, but I’m sure your all too busy with your life, to take a moment to try and make a difference.

    Demand justice now, before it’s too late.

    To all the hired online, nay saying name calling “people” with your obsessions with gay sex; your only proving our point that it’s all a lie. Anger no longer works as a way to stop a discussion. The power of control is losing.

    What happens when you lose control?

    All you have to do is look around and stop allowing people to tell you what your seeing. Your an adult, you can think with out being told how.

    How you all at NASA sleep at night I have no idea.

    I’d say God Bless but he too has been hijacked so I’ll say best of luck, we’re going to need it in a big way.

  19. Aodhhan says

    >Second, we have no real way to power the >craft to melt its way through that much ice >without it taking an extremely long time

    Think of a large heavy bullet or mortor with heating elements inside (or your favorite radioactive rock). Once it is hot enough, it can simply use gravity to melt its way through the ice.

    >Three, we also have no know technology >that will be able to handle the immense >pressure of the interior of a moon

    We don’t? Someone recall the small probes we send to the bottom of the ocean. Also those small unmanned subs which don’t really exist.

    It can be done… it just takes time and money.. lots of money. Not to mention enough interest to bump it up on the priority list of other things everyone wants to do.

    >I’ve never understood how liquid water could have ever existed on Mars

    Library is this way ———->

    >It’s WAY too cold and there’s no evidence that the Sun was ever warmer then it is now

    There are those who believe (actually it is a popular belief) Mars was once closer to the sun than it currently is.

  20. Sili says

    The reason Mars had oceans was the presence of an atmosphere giving it higher surface pressure and temperature (through the greenhouse effect – but perhaps you deny the existence of that too?).

    Then where’s the atmosphere now? Well, you see Mars used to have magnetic field – just like Earth. Surprise! Once that disappeared the solarwind had free access to strip away every molecule not tied down.

    And the magnetic field in turn went away when Mars’ liquid core froze. Which it did long ago because Mars is so much smaller than Earth.

    This is pretty basic stuff. I’m no more than a curious layman, and *I* know this. This is the Internet! Go google stuff before you sprout nonsense. Pot, kettle, black – I know.

  21. Steve says

    Aoddhan,
    With regards to the subs we have sent to the bottom of the ocean, thats 10km deep, not upwards of 100+, so Id be highly skeptical or anything suriviving that kind of pressure with out current technology.

    And I suppose you are right about us being able to heat through the ice, however, it would probably take years

  22. Aodhhan says

    Steve,

    Please, see library. 🙂

  23. Estuardo says

    Where do these people come from? I cannot understand how it is possible to be so thoroughly in denial of reality.

    http://www.getmentalhelp.com/

  24. Marco Fitz says

    Bad news… 🙁

  25. TerraHertz says

    Since the demonstrations that NASA is fiddling the colors of Mars images from the rovers (witness the reference color swatches on top of the rover, in which known pure green and blue swatches appear reddish-brown like everything else – including the pure white electrical cabling which appears pink) I’m not taking anything NASA publishes seriously.

    They’ve clearly been subverted to serve *some* kind of misinformation program, even if it’s not clear what the reason may be.

    Now we see another Mars lander, from which images are either black and white (in the age of ubiquitous, dirt cheap high-res miniature color cameras – give me a break!) or the same old ‘Red channel turned right up’ lying garbage. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting. I mean come on – even parts of Phoenix which are obviously a clean white (eg parts of the solar array) appear red-brown. The deep blue solar cells appear muddy brown-bluish. Who the heck do these idiots think they are fooling?

    More importantly, *why* are they trying? How does it cause anyone a problem if people see true-color images from Mars, in which the sky is light blue, and rocks look like ordinary rocks? As truthfully shown at a JPL news conference, at which JPL displayed rover images constructed from the original raw data feeds, *before* NASA applied their ‘make everything muddy brown’ filter.

    Come on NASA, stop lying. You are just making yourselves look stupid, and destroying your once-great reputation.

  26. Kevin White says

    Good grief. 🙁

    Some of these comments are just saddening.

  27. Learner says

    Debunkers come with the territory.

    It never stopped any serious science buffs before and it won’t stop them now.

    Read up on the Van Allen Belt after it was referred to in a comment. It was interesting. High altitude nuclear explosions test in 1962 and what followed, was very interesting. Read in wikipedia.

  28. Al Hall says

    TerraHertz-
    Well… Let us hope that some day Hollywood can once again make it look as real as they did 40 years ago…. For some strange reason they have yet to do it.. I don’t understand.. Their budget is bigger than NASA’s… They want to sell tickets, don’t they?…. Why won’t they make it look realistic like they did in the 60s and 70s (for the Apollo missions)?….. Their movies otherwise still look fake.. to this day..!
    Well… I have an answer… But I am sure that someone else will answer it before me… And I won’t have to call anyone names..

  29. al says

    what’s with the freaks ? .. mention mars and all of a sudden they all come out to play .. sheesh.

  30. Kimmer says

    I love Velikosvy’s books and james mccanney’s books are great and his website is good. (jmccsci.com) He has a weekly talk and his shows are archived. Very interesting. He can be heard on reality radio.

  31. NASA should bring distilled/bottled water next time and then drop it on the ground so that it can say that mars has some water.

  32. Member

    Wow! Phoenix is in Nevada? Or Area 51? Who would have thought it. I’ll retract this article and publish the proof that there is actually “no water in the Nevada desert.”

    I think that conspiracy would be harder to achieve than actually sending a robot to Mars – refer to Matt’s Occam Razor comment 😉

    Cheers! Ian 😉

  33. greg c says

    wow. i cant believe the ignorant conspiracy charges! hilarious!

  34. Chuck Lam says

    What next if water is detected on Mars?

  35. MarkB says

    What’s with the whole “Mars isn’t red” conspiracy/madness? All you have to do is look at it through a telescope or even the naked eye to confirm that it’s true.

  36. greg c says

    MarkB,

    they must be color blind! “mars is gray! i swear!”

  37. Ell Jay says

    Internet forums: Anonymity + Audience = Total Dickwads.

    Whose bright idea was it anyways to allow the Great Unwashed to write whatever they want wherever they want?

  38. Al Hall says

    I like it! At least at this site. I don’t like the major news site forums, though.. It seems they pick and choose the comments they want to publish based on their bias. Of course occasionally throwing in the ‘other’ side’s so they can pretend to be fair.
    With this site, yes there are the occasional trolls, political activists, spammers and crackpots but for the most part it is the average ‘Joe’ with an opinion or a question. I like it. It doesn’t matter if one is an Astrophysicist or a “stay at home mom”… I like to hear all (most) ideas or thoughts. I think it broadens all of our thinking when we share ideas and thoughts. I think it is also great that this site isn’t regimentally moderated. That would really be a bummer when we are in our drunken stupors on a Friday night, waiting and waiting.. Just my two cents worth.

  39. No, no water on Mars. Only Ice. Unimaginably vast quantities of it. Phoenix is sitting on a vast “sea” of ice, coated with a thin layer of dust, just like much of the Martian surface. Phoenix would detect water if it could, but all that ice gets in the way. It’s so frustrating! It makes the soil clump together, so it won’t drop into the oven. And by the time the ice has all sublimated (evaporated) away, all of the water is inexplicably gone too. The patches of ice on the ground, too, sublimate away, getting visibly smaller over time, as if they’re mocking our diminishing chances of finding water. But we’ll find water, despite all that ice! Just mark my words!

  40. TerraHertz says

    @ Martin Gradwell – Yes, it’s quite amusing. The black & white pictures taken looking under the lander, that shows solid ice (probably) exposed when the landing rockets blew away the few inches of dust. What a pity that wasn’t a color camera. Or was it? The surface sure looks like ice that’s been rocket exhaust sublimed. What luck it couldn’t be seen to be ice-colored – otherwise people wouldn’t have been holding their breath for the oven results.

    I can’t help wondering if the ‘inability to drop some soil into the oven’ was scripted, and someone not in the loop noticed the ice chunks sublimation in the photos – something that wasn’t in the ‘nope, no water to be found here’ script.

    Also getting a good laugh from the ‘oh how stupid – just look at Mars through a telescope- it’s clearly red.’ Yes, and so are many desert areas of Earth from space. Of course Mars looks redish from space. No one would be so stupid as to claim otherwise. But when in a desert, look up. what color is the sky on a clear day? Also while there, take a picture of something white, or blue, or green – does the ‘red desert’ make everything in the photo look red? No, it doesn’t.

    Yet in past NASA publications of images from Mars, *everything* is reddish. Even the bits of the rovers/lander that are known to be white, or other colors. And no, it’s not a ‘dust film’ – the effect is there even in early pics before there was significant dusting. As with Phoenix’s solar arrays. The white parts look pink, the blue solar cells look brownish, and in the early shots of that trench, the parts that we now see looking pure white in pics after they admit it’s ice, were dull brown.

    Even JPL tried to correct the lies – witness their press conference last year in which they presented their versions of rover pictures of Mars – correct colors, light blue sky, etc.

    Sure, it’s a relatively minor detail, but none the less, NASA’a ‘Mars colors’ are a lie. And you can’t trust *anything* from a known liar.

    I’d be a lot happier if the raw image & science data was published on the net immediately it was received, before NASA ‘tidied it up’. Since it’s publicly funded research, it should be.

  41. Paul Eaton-Jones says

    Sir, I am truly amazed that a site I thought to be dedicated to the serious discussion about astronomy and space exploration allows contributions from crack-pot conspiracy theorist. There are plenty of groups on the net for them to indulge themselves and their lunatic ideas and not to bother us. They take up space and time [no pun intended] and I’m sick of having to wade through the utterly pointless postings. No one truly thought that NASA would find evidence of life in the first trench dug so give them time. Sure a moblie lab would have been great but we’re still in the very early days of exploration.
    Paul.

  42. DavidV says

    With reference to the last post from Paul Eaton Jones.

    Well said sir.

    A pity that I had to wade through pages of rubbish to find your sensible post. Had I not had the patience, I could have ended up thinking this otherwise excellent site was just another sounding board for ‘crack pot conspiracy theorists’ and given up reading it.

  43. fallen angel says

    if it is any reassurance to these ‘crackpot conspiracy theorists’ i would have to remind them of the fact that mars is indeed a red planet which im sure most of us would agree on, with red dirt, and let us not let forget that it does indeed have its own weather systems which include light winds which cover most of the planet due to mars having an atmosphere however thin it may be, but regardless we can agree on the fact that red dirt will be more than likely picked up by this wind and cover all visible aspects of the phoenix lander. as well as carrying this dirt all over the planet and indeed into the atmosphere itself creating invisible ‘computer renditions’.

    It is not some dead atmosphereless weatherless rock of a planet like the moon, so is it not possible that the reason this craft seems so covered in dirt is simply because of that or that a possibility is that it was kicked up into the air from the landing thrusters and settled slowly over time due to mars lower gravity?

    all the things that these debunkers have tried to blame as computer rendered images on NASA’s part can be explained away by simple planetary phenomenon.

    sure i would have to agree on the fact that there are things NASA does not want us to know, its like that with all big businesses but NASA’S all about space exploration and i cant see them staging a massive multimillion dollar hoax saying they went to mars when they didn’t, when they could have actually spent the same amount of money going there in the first place.

    the next thing we’ll hear is that the space shuttles NASA have in their hangers don’t really work and its all a public stunt with pre recorded news crews and that NASA have indeed sent probes to cydonia and found that the structures they found were indeed million year old pyramids but no we can’t let the fact that intelligent life other than humans exists in the universe leak into the general public, lets keep them in blissful ignorance….

  44. claude lewis says

    THANK GOD NO WATER ON MARS WE WILL HAVE TO CARRY THE DRINKING WATER WITH US TO MARS AT LEAST IT HAS AN ATOMOSHPHERE NOT DEAD LIKE THE MOON TERRAFORMING MARS WILL REQUIRE SOME VERY CREATIVE TECHNOLOGY IF THE DEMOCRATS WOUD
    SPEND SOME OF THEIR CAMPAIGN MONEY
    ON MARS RESEARCH AND OIL DRILLING WE MIGHT GET HUMANS THERE BEFORE
    2050

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