The Open UniversitySkip to content

WatSen: searching for clues for water (and life) on Mars

Grady, Monica (2006). WatSen: searching for clues for water (and life) on Mars. International Journal of Astrobiology, 5(3) pp. 211–219.

Full text available as:
PDF (Not Set) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (347kB)
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


There is plenty of evidence for fluid on Mars: large-scale (planet-wide) features have been captured over four decades by a procession of orbiting satellites equipped with cameras with increasingly higher spatial resolutions. Imagery of the surface shows channels, valleys, ice-caps, etc. Small-scale, more local evidence for fluid has come from images obtained by rovers on the Martian surface. Images that water produced many of the features are supported by spectroscopic measurements (again both planet-wide and local) over a range of wavelengths, which show the presence of minerals generally only produced in the presence of water (haemetite, jarosite, etc.). Results from meteorites continue this picture of fluid activity taking place over significant periods of Mars' history. Despite all these indicators of water, direct detection of water has never been performed. We have reviewed the evidence for water on Mars' surface, and have described WatSen, a combined humidity sensor and infrared IR detector, which can be employed to search for water at and below Mars' surface. WatSen is designed to be part of the suite of instruments on the mole that will be deployed as part of the Geophysics and Environment Package on ExoMars. The objectives of the package are as follows: (i) to detect water within Martian soil by measuring humidity and IR spectral characteristics of the substrate at surface and at depth; (ii) to determine the mineralogy and mineral chemistry of surface soils (this measurement will provide the mineralogical context for the elemental results that come from other instruments mounted on the landing platform); (iii) to determine how mineralogy changes with depth. The utility of WatSen is that it will not only detect the presence of water, but will also be able to record which minerals are present and their chemistry; it is also sensitive to many organic species. WatSen is a new instrument concept specifically designed to search for clues of the presence of water, and to look for evidence of life on Mars.

Item Type: Journal Item
ISSN: 1473-5504
Keywords: water; mars; life; infra-red; spectroscopy.
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Physical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 7910
Depositing User: Kyra Proctor
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2007
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 14:50
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU