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Discovery of Water on Mars Is a Joint Italian-American Enterprise

July 26, 2018 (EIRNS)—The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), the radar that has detected a saltwater lake under the polar surface of Mars, was conceived and built by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in collaboration with three Italian universities and installed on the European Space Agency Mars Express mission.

The low-frequency radar was conceived by the late Prof. Giovanni Picardi of the University of Rome and built by Thales Alenia Space Italy under ASI supervision. NASA, through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Iowa, supplied part of the electronics and the special antenna which is visible in all images of the Mars Express satellite. ASI delivered MARSIS to ESA, which installed it on the satellite launched on June 3, 2003.

The ASI team has collected data for three years and analyzed them for four years, in order to determine that the absolute permittivity would allow the team to identify the nature of the medium with certainty. The results have been peer-reviewed and were published by Science today.

It was determined that the water in lake is saltwater, because fresh water would freeze at such low temperatures. It is located on the South Pole of the planet, in a region called Planum Australe. “It is the first evidence that there is liquid water on Mars, in a sub-glacial lake,” said Enrico Flamini, ASI chief scientist for the MARSIS operation, at a press conference yesterday in Rome. “We had waited 30 to 40 years for this event.” Water and protection from ionized radiation offer good conditions for life, and there could be other lakes such as this one.

Flamini was asked whether the radar could detect the presence of life in the lake. “Given the very similar absolute permittivity of animal bodies and water, if there were a whale in the lake we would not be able to see it,” he smiled.

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