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Mars Odyssey finds water ice
Posted: Sat, Mar 2, 2002, 10:21 AM ET (1521 GMT)
Mars Odyssey map of south polar water ice (NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona) NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has detected strong evidence of what appears to be large deposits of water ice below the surface of Mars, scientists announced Friday. The gamma-ray spectrometer instrument detected large amounts of hydrogen, which scientists presume to be in the form of water ice, in the top meter of the Martian surface from 60 degrees south latitude down to the south pole. Similar water ice deposits may exist in the north polar regions, but the large seasonal carbon dioxide ice cap there prevents the spacecraft from detecting it at this time. Project scientists don't have enough data yet to measure the exact amount of water that may exist on Mars, but one scientist described it simply as "a lot." The announcement was made Friday at a press conference to unveil the first results from Mars Odyssey since it began its primary science mission late last month. Scientists also released the first images from the spacecraft's thermal emission imaging system, which will allow them to study the composition of the surface. Odyssey's third main instrument, a radiation exposure experiment, malfunctioned in August and is still offline; project officials said they are still troubleshooting the problem and still hope to get it working again.
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