NASA: White substance photographed by Phoenix lander on Mars 'must have been ice'

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Friday, June 20, 2008

White 'chunks' that were photographed by the Phoenix lander on Mars on June 15 after digging a trench, have disappeared, leading scientists to believe they most certainly found ice on the Red Planet.

"It must be ice. These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona located in Tucson, Arizona.

The chunks were left at the bottom of a trench informally called "Dodo-Goldilocks" when Phoenix's Robotic Arm enlarged that trench on June 15, during the 20th Martian day, or sol, since landing. Several were gone when Phoenix looked at the trench early today, on Sol 24.

Digging in a different trench Phoenix's robotic Arm connected with a hard surface that has scientists excited about the prospect of next uncovering an icy layer.

"We have dug a trench and uncovered a hard layer at the same depth as the ice layer in our other trench," said Washington University robotic arm investigator for Phoenix, Ray Arvidson. The arm tried at least three times to penetrate the layer, but was unsuccessful. As a result the arm went into a holding pattern, awaiting its next commands.