This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.

CNET News Video: The Phoenix Lander's thirst for Martian water

About Video Transcript

CNET News Video: The Phoenix Lander's thirst for Martian water

3:45 /

Since the Phoenix Lander touched down near the north pole of Mars, the mission to find water has been on. CNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi interviews planetary scientist Paul Doherty about Martian water, ice, and snowflakes, and why finding any of them would be a big deal.

[ Background Music ] >> I'm Kara Tsuboi CNET News.com. I'm here at San Francisco's Exploratorium to talk to Paul Doherty about the Phoenix Lander. Paul is a senior scientist here and a planetary scientist with a degree from MIT. Thanks for joining us. >> It's great to be here and I'm really excited by this successful landing of the Phoenix Lander. >> Tell me about the different water properties on Mars. >> On Mars, the atmospheric pressure is much less than the pressure that's squeezing in on us here on the earth and that makes a big difference for water. So let me sort of--can I show you about the pressures? >> Please do. >> I've got this 5 foot long steel rod that if I put it on my hand, that's the atmospheric pressure that's squeezing every inch of your body. But when we go to Mars the atmospheric pressure on Mars is like that. It's 100 times less than the atmospheric pressure on earth. >> So to boil that water takes a lot less energy. >> That's right! It takes a lot lower temperature. So from most of Mars, half of Mars, water will boil at zero degree Celsius at the freezing point. >> So the water in this test tube and by altering the pressure you can simulate how much is actually forcing on it in Mars' atmosphere. >> So right now the earth's atmosphere is pushing down on these, pressing that water together so it doesn't boil at room temperature. But if I pull out on this as you see me pulling out, I reduce the pressure and when I--I snap it there a bit, when I reduce the pressure it actually fizzes and that fizzing is boiling. There it nicely fizzes at room temperature. >> And I hope we can see photos of that. That's sort of the planet that they're gonna be taking pictures from the Phoenix and sending 'em back? >> They will. We'll actually see pictures. They're gonna--they've looked around already and they don't see any bare naked ice at the moment but they have an arm with a scoop on it and they're gonna dig down into the soil and they expect from orbital observations of different nuclei and molecules above the surface that they're gonna find ice within half a meter, about 20 inches down at least. So they're gonna dig, they'll expose some ice and we'll be able to see this solid ice on Mars. >> If there's ice on Mars, there's gotta be snow flakes? >> That's right. So I wanted to find out what's the shape of a snowflake on Mars but on Mars in the winter, snowflakes are not made of water, they're made of dry ice, carbon dioxide ice like on earth and I found out that nobody knew the shape of carbon dioxide snowflakes. So in my lab on earth I made a Mars atmosphere, I created a snowstorm, a Martian snowstorm and I grew Martian snowflakes and took the picture of them. >> How do they look different from an earth's snowflake? >> So this is my plastic model of a Martian snowflake. It's a cube with all four corners on top and all four corners on the bottom cut off and that's called a cuboctahedra. >> And speaking like in a big picture, what does all of this research and exploration really mean for our space race? For what this country is doing as far as figuring out life in other planet? >> Well one of the great important philosophical questions of all time is what is life and where is life, so does life exists only on the planet earth as we know it? Or is there life elsewhere in the universe and Mars is like the first baby step into the universe searching for other forms of life. So we'll be there with a chemistry lab looking for ice, water ice and liquid water, because at some times in Mars' history, it can warm up at this region of Mars where we landed and make liquid water and see if trapped within the ice, there's some sign that life exists or existed on Mars. >> Very well, thank you very much Paul. >> Oh good to be here. >> I appreciate the demonstration. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. ^M00:03:40 [ Music ]

New releases

XCAR Awards 2014: Best-Looking
1:31 December 24, 2014
The XCAR team has played with some amazing cars in 2014, but which will be crowned the best-looking?
Play video
LG's bare bones oven needs a little more meat
2:02 December 24, 2014
The LG LRE3021 gives reliable mid-range performance, but lacks the features you can find from other brands for the same price.
Play video
Tomorrow Daily 106: Our 'Best of 2014' Extravaganza
27:44 December 24, 2014
On today's show, we celebrate another year gone by naming our (and your) favorite tech stories, pop culture news and video games of...
Play video
The big trends to watch at CES 2015
2:55 December 24, 2014
With CES around the corner, Bridget Carey tells you what to look out for at this year's tech expo. Expect buzz around the smart home,...
Play video
Google Lunar Xprize: Astrobotic completes rover tests for $750,000 prize
3:56 December 24, 2014
Team Astrobotic takes to an active quarry just outside of Pittsburgh to put its lunar rover through its paces. Tests complete, the...
Play video
Send digital holiday greetings
1:01 December 23, 2014
No time to send a traditional holiday greeting card? Don't let that stop you from expressing your cheer this season. In this Tech Minute,...
Play video
Tomorrow Daily 105: Scary snake-bots, 'The Interview' release, animated ancient art and more
25:24 December 23, 2014
On today's show, we take a look at a terrifying new robot with snake-bots for legs, cheer Sony's plans to actually release "The Interview,"...
Play video
Function over finesse with this bland GE range
1:35 December 23, 2014
This stainless steel non-convection electric range from GE is perfectly ordinary.
Play video