May 23, 2008
Written by Cory Chandler
On Sunday, NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander is slated to touch down on the Red Planet’s artic northern planes and dig into a reservoir of ice, searching for signs that water once existed there as a liquid.
Back on Earth, Texas Tech University geosciences researcher Hal Karlsson already has studied Martian water – in liquid form.
Karlsson was part of a Johnson Space Center team that extracted water from Martian meteorites. The research, published in 1992 in the journal Science, provided insights into the hydration history of Mars’ rocky surface.
Analysis showed that the chemical composition of oxygen in the water molecules was different from the oxygen pulled from the rest of the minerals in the meteorite. This discrepancy in the isotopic ratios surprised researchers, since the ratios of oxygen are consistent on Earth.
Their findings led researchers to conclude that water came to Mars from some source outside the planet – such as a comet – or that the planet doesn’t have plate-tectonic activity to push water through stones the way Earth does.
Karlsson, now an associate professor at Texas Tech, can speak about the implications of the findings and their impact on later research.
Contact: Hal Karlsson, associate professor of geosciences, Texas Tech University (806) 742-3130, or firstname.lastname@example.org.