NASA generally makes relatively few announcements to the press. When she calls journalists around the world, it’s usually not for nothing. So when yesterday afternoon the American space agency confirmed the holding of a press conference, the scientific world was expecting something big.
In the hours that followed, theories abound. Some specialists believe that NASA will talk about water on Mars. After all, this is the primary interest of the InSight and Perseverance missions, which are currently on the red planet. For others, more optimistic, this great announcement could even be related to traces of past lives.
On December 24, 2021, NASA followed live the fall of a meteorite on the red planet. 200 tons heavy and as big as a van, the impact with the ground formed a crater 150 meters in diameter and 21 meters deep. In its press release, the American space agency tries to measure the violence of the event. “Debris flew 37 kilometers”says NASA.
A crater that reveals the secrets of the planet Mars
For the agency, this discovery is historic in many respects. It is indeed the first time that such an impact has been observed on the red planet. This “Major Discovery” as NASA called it would not have been possible without NASA’s small Insight Seismometry. Designed in collaboration with CNES and the DLR (German space agency), the probe reached the Martian soil in 2018.
It is at the origin of the discovery of the meteorite. Once the crash site was defined, NASA sent the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) probe above this area. For Ingrid Daubar, a researcher at Brown University, it’s a real “moment of history” that is playing out before our eyes.
With the passage of the MRO probe, NASA was able to have a first image of the crash. To its great surprise, the American space agency discovered on the picture traces of water ice everywhere around the crater. For Olivier Sanguy, scientific journalist, this discovery is far from trivial.
Finding water on Mars: very good news for the future
As he explains to our colleagues from Franceinfo, finding water ice either in the Martian soil means that this water is present in quantity on the red planet. This information is of great interest to NASA with a view to future manned missions. “Water ice is important as a resource because we know that we won’t be able to take everything on Mars missions. Therefore, it is necessary to exploit local resources. »
Water could allow astronauts on Mars to hydrate themselves, but also to create oxygen. Thanks to electrolysis, scientists are able to “crack” the water and separate the hydrogen atoms with the oxygen. This method, already used during the Apollo missions to the Moon, could be a good solution for NASA, since water does not seem to be lacking on Mars.