October 17, 2007 at 12:55 PM EDT
TORONTO — Scientists at a Canadian university say they've found the first “on-the-spot” evidence of water on Mars.
University of Guelph researchers say a white, salty substance churned up by the wheels of a Mars rover in the Columbia Hills region of the planet could contain up to 16 per cent water.
Lead research Iain Campbell said the find bolsters earlier evidence from satellite probes suggesting that water exists beneath the Martian surface.
Evidence of past and present water is essential to determining if life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Mr. Campbell said the new evidence is the first time actual soil has provided solid evidence there's water on Mars.
The research, under review by the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, suggests that the water is bound into a salty substance that lies beneath the sandy surface, near the planet's equator.