Astronomy: Moisture on Mars

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Although the results do not prove the existence of water on the Martian surface, Astronomer Harlan Smith, director of the McDonald Observatory, speculates that if water is found in the atmosphere, it must be stored in greater quantities in the form of permafrost at the poles and in the ground.

The confirmation of water on Mars keeps alive the slim hopes that some form of Martian life exists and that the seasonal darkening is indeed caused by vegetation. But scientists will probably have to wait for a more definite answer until the Mars landing in 1973 of the unmanned U.S. Project Viking capsules, which will be equipped with life-detection instruments. Because the best prospects for life would almost certainly exist in the most humid areas, Astronomer Schorn suggests that the first landing be made at the edge of a receding polar cap, where the Martian soil should be as wet as it ever gets.

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