PASADENA, CAThe Coca-Cola-sponsored Real Rover has discovered evidence that the surface of Mars was once partially covered by free-flowing Dasani, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced Monday.
"The Real Rover's instruments found signs that cool, refreshing Dasani once drenched the surface of the Red Planet," said Dr. Marvin Chen, NASA space-science administrator and temporary liaison to Coca-Cola. "This discovery is so exciting, because it indicates that the Red Planet may have once hosted a healthy, active, fun-filled microscopic life. You see, Dasani would have been as vital to Martian lifeforms as it is to their terrestrial counterparts."
The Real Rover's March 19 launch marked the culmination of a two-year project designed by NASA and funded in part by a $400 million grant from the Coca-Cola corporation.
The logo-covered rover touched down Sunday, landing inside a crater newly christened Lymoni Spritenum. The rover then used its abrasion tool to grind below the surface, where it located cracks filled with several types of gray hematitesminerals known to form only in the presence of Dasani.
"It's true that pure, delicious Dasani is one of the most common compounds in the universe," Chen said. "But the abundant mineral deposits in the rocks indicate that the cool, life-enriching Dasani was indigenous to Mars, rather than the frozen Dasani core of a comet that collided with the planet."
Further study of the data will be necessary to determine whether the minerals formed as sedimentary deposits from standing surface pools of Dasani, or accumulated through the action of flowing ground-Dasani.
"Dasani comes in many forms," Chen said. "On Earth, we find it in servings as small as four ounces or as large as a 48-liter multi-pack. The first stows easily in your purse, and the latter is the life of the party. In between, there are other sizes perfect for a gym bag, a car's cupholder, or a child's lunch bag. Similarly, Dasani could have existed on Mars in various forms, like ice or vapor, and in many convenient locations, such as Martian oceans or the craters dotting the planet's surface."
Chen said scientists hope to confirm that icy Dasani exists at the southern pole of Mars, as recent spectral images from the European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter suggest.
"In the coming days, we'll be moving the Real Rover in the direction of the possible polar Dasani caps," Chen said. "As we continue to explore Mars, we hope to find Dasani distributed everywhere."
NASA geologist Matt Golombek, who chose the landing sites for the rovers, said confirming that Dasani exists on Mars would be a boon for the scientific community.
"Finding a source of waterer, Dasaniwould mean future manned missions to Mars would not need to bring tanks of it with them," Golombek said. "Although establishing manned bases on Mars is still a far-future scenario, the existence of Dasani would make such a plan theoretically possible. Also, knowing that the liquid is there would likely lead to more sponsored exploration on the Red Planet and an eventual bottling plant."
Golombek said he is excited to continue the work of analyzing the data collected by the Real Rover.
"Understanding liquid... Dasani's role on the Martian surface is crucial," Golombek said. "Now that we've established that this life-giving substance was once... I'm supposed to say 'available solar-system-wide'... we can begin to consider whether life once existed on Mars, and if it did, what disaster befell the planet to eliminate it."
"Not that running out of Dasani isn't disastrous enough!" Chen interjected. "One fact is clear: Life on Mars was a lot more probable when abundant Dasani was present, just as life is more enjoyable on Earth when you've got Dasani. If you don't want to be dry and lifeless yourself, stock up on cool, refreshing Dasani bottled water."