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IAC 2015 Concludes with Latest News on Water on Mars

Press Release From: Israel Ministry of Science, Technology and Space
Posted: Monday, October 19, 2015

The IAC 2015 in Jerusalem, hosted by the Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, ended on Friday with a special session examining the latest news about running water on Mars.

Over the week 2,000 conference participants from around the world were privy to the latest developments in the industry including plans for missions to Mars, the Rosetta Mission, and new space technologies. Those in attendance had the opportunity to hear from the most successful individuals in the space industry including Buzz Aldrin, senior astronauts, scientists and engineers involved in the most exciting projects, and space agency heads from around the world including the US, China and Russia.

Minister of Science Ofir Akunis said that “convening the Congress in Jerusalem is a tribute to Israeli science. The fact that thousands of scientists, astronauts and agency heads came despite the tense situation is a testament Israel and our scientific industries. We are sure Israel will continue to break new barriers in science, technology and space. I want to thank all those who participated in the conference and who set a high bar for future IAC gatherings. The Ministry of Science will continue to assist in any way possible when it comes to further developing Israeli science which is a source of pride to the country as we break new ground and share our innovations with the world.”

The final panel of the conference was moderated by Dr. Igal Fatel, Chair of the Israeli Astronomical Society and included NASA’s Jim Graf, the former Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager – the satellite which is photographing Mars in high resolution, and Bernard Foing, the Chief Scientist of the European Space Agency.

The scientists on the panel told the audience that we know that water on Mars came from a number of sources and that this water originated 13.7 billion years ago. Mars today appears very dry, but we have recently discovered that Mars’ surface is extremely active and it includes liquid brine which originate below the surface and at times erupts. Additionally, glaciers that are only millions of years old have also been discovered.

Dr. Foing said that the European Space Agency is planning three missions to Mars over the next few years that plan on drilling two meters into the surface in a search for water. The missions will also study the climate and environmental surrounding in preparation for future manned mission.

Dr. Graf explained that “it took us seven months to reach Mars during the current MRO mission during which we found hints that point to a wetter past on Mars. We also found different minerals that indicate volcanic activities. We know that at a certain point the minerals developed at a higher altitude and then flowed down to lower regions.” Dr. Graf also pointed out that “we have so far covered 80 percent of the planted with photographs and imaging by satellites, but we still don’t know led to water erupting on the surface. This is something that will need to be further examined on future missions.”

The scientists also explained about dust storms that take place on Mars, called Dust Devils, which are eight meters wide and twenty kilometers high and leave a long trail behind them. Sand dunes that are 200 meters high and have moved over the past three and a half years are another indication that Mars is an active plated.

Concluding with a word of caution to explorers, the Dr. Graf warned that while there may be life below the surface on Mars, it is more likely that we will bring life with us then finding it there. “If we find life, we want to make sure that we weren’t the ones to bring it there.” Graf said.

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