back to article The best way to find oxygen on Mars? Friggin LASERS, of course

A chemical camera sitting atop Curiosity, the Mars rover, has spotted signs that the Red Planet may have once had oxygen in its atmosphere, fuelling further speculation that it was once Earth-like. Today, Mars is a barren wasteland. Its surface is dry and caked in rust-coloured iron oxide dust particles – a stark difference …

  1. Alan J. Wylie

    Not a green laser.

    The green color of the laser depicted above is for illustrative purposes

    1. NoneSuch
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not a green laser.

      Can't wait until Curiosity finds SUV's half buried in the dust. The real cause of the death of Mars.

  2. VinceH

    I did not know they had sharks on board the rover.

    Curiosity: The Mars rover equipped with lasers and 'manned' by sharks.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Having sharks onboard allows you to search for water at the same time!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So where did all the oxygen in the iron oxide come from?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rust?

      Probably Mars had actual oceans of water, but due to the low gravity a lot of water molecules were getting high enough to be disassociated by UV from the sun. The result is hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gradually escapes to space, and the oxygen bonds with whatever's available (iron mostly).

      This is happening here too, but the rate is far lower, so we still have oceans. As the sun ages it will get brighter, raising more water vapor up to altitudes where the UV is strong. At some point the rate of water loss will skyrocket and the oceans will dry up just like Mars.

      So yes, there was atmospheric oxygen on Mars, while its water was going away.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Rust?

        Not only that, but the only reason there *is* more than trace atmospheric oxygen on Earth is life. Biotic processes are what separate the Oxygen from the rocks (Iron and Calcium, predominantly). Otherwise, Earth would look rather a lot like Mars, with much of our oxygen tied up in the rocks.

        Of course, it's spectacularly unlikely that Mars (or Earth) formed with all the Iron being iron oxide. Oxygen is a very common element, but to reach the all-pervasive nature of iron-oxide on Mars there would have had to have been atmospheric oxygen on Mars at some point...and for quite a while too.

        "Mars had an Oxygen atmosphere" isn't exactly news. Proof that it didn't would be novel. Alternately, proof that there was once enough Nitrogen on Mars to serve as a buffer gas would be interesting. If there was that much at one point, where'd it all go? Mars should be able to hold on to Nitrogen...I think? I have to go look that up...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mars used to be like Earth until they voted leave.

    1. The Nazz

      well, it is a possibility that Mars will be swamped** with immigrants in the none too distant future, hopefully within the remainder of my natural life.

      ** relatively speaking.

  5. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    More importantly...

    The chances of anything coming from Mars are?

    1. Ian Bush

      Re: More importantly...

      But million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten

      (crossing the memes)

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: More importantly...

        But 73.6% of statistics are made up. So I'll take yours with a pinch of red weed.

      2. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

        Re: More importantly...

        Don't cross the memes!

  6. Pat Att


    Surely it should be frikking lasers.

  7. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Nice work by the Curiosity team!

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