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Scientists Set to Survey Ancient Water Evidence

extract of an earlier image of multiple features that may point to water on Mars. Click for larger size NASA/MSSS image.
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  •  Washington - Dec. 4, 2000
    NASA scientists are preparing to announce a major review of the evidence to date for water on Mars and in particular the evidence for sedimentation at a press conference later this week.

    Imaging scientists Dr. Michael Malin and Dr. Ken Edge tt from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft will present what they describe as their most significant discovery yet at a Space Science Update at 2:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 7. Their findings are to be then published in the December 8 issue of Science Magazine.

    Presenting scientists include;

    • Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC., will be panel moderator.
    • Dr. Michael Malin principal investigator, Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), San Diego, CA.
    • Dr. Ken Edgett, staff scientist at MSSS.
    • Dr. Jim Garvin, Mars Exploration Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters.
    • Dr. Ken Nealson, director of the Center for Life Detection at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.

    Although the panel includes an astrobiologists, Spaceref in a report issued Sunday notes that "astrobiologist Bruce Jakosky was also present at the June 2000 press briefing regarding the discovery of liquid water near the surface of Mars. Jakosky was able to provide insight into the implications of that discovery for life on Mars even though that discovery had no direct or indirect biological component to it."

    According to a report carried by the Sunday Times the British team building the Mars lander Beagle 2 is already considering rerouting its vehicle, Beagle II, to land in the middle of one of these areas, wrote the Sunday Times.

    The data to be presented as part of this review is based upon information obtained with the main imaging camera and the laser altimeter instrument onboard the Mars Global Surveyor now in orbit about Mars, and which has revolutionized our knowledge of Mars the past three years.

    According to the Sunday Times the evidence is based upon pictures of rocks that exhibit sedimentation - a process most often associated with particles sinking in oceans, lakes or rivers and which over time are compressed into rock.

    However, sedimentation processes are not dependent upon the action of liquid water alone.

    According to the definition provided by the Encyclopedia Britannica "Sedimentation, in the geological sciences, is the process of deposition of a solid material in a fluid - usually air or water. Broadly defined it also includes deposits from glacial ice and those material collected under the impetus of gravity alone, as in talus deposits, or accumulations of rock debris at the base of cliffs."

    Nonetheless, any clear evidence of sedimentation processes on Mars is expected to influence the decision on where to land the next two Mars landers due to set down on Mars in 2004.

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    Mars: Cold, Dry and Dead
    Denver - Oct. 31, 2000
    U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists studying Mars have discovered minerals with profound implications for the past history of the planet. The mineral olivine, an iron-magnesium silicate that weathers easily by water, has been found in abundance on Mars. The presence of olivine implies that chemical weathering by water is low on the planet and that Mars has been cold and dry throughout its geologic history.

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