Why does a reduction reaction always accompany an oxidation reaction?

8. Analyzing Information In a reduction reaction, the reduced atom gains one or more electrons. Why is this reaction called a reduction?

Science in Action

Is There Water on Mars?

Do other living organisms share our solar system? One way to discover a possible answer to this age-old question is to search for the presence of water on other planets. Water is essential for life on Earth, so where there is water, there might be life.

HYPOTHESIS: Water Exists on Mars

Scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have sent orbiters, (reusable spacecraft designed to transport people and cargo) between Earth and Mars. Recent orbiters to be sent to Mars include NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) and Mars Odyssey. These missions revealed boulders, dust, canyons, and tall volcanic peaks. Some of the most exciting images revealed gullies carved into the Martian landscape. The appearance of these gullies led geologists to hypothesize that the gullies had been carved by running water within the past few million years.

Why is the presence of water on Mars so intriguing? On our planet, where there is water, there is life. For now, scientists are assuming that life-forms on Mars would have the same dependence on water.

METHODS: Image and Analyze Martian Rock Samples

In the summer of 2003, NASA scientists launched Spirit and Opportunity, two Mars exploration rovers. The job of these two rovers was to take small-scale geologic surveys of surrounding rocks and soil and to search for ancient traces of water. These rovers landed in regions near the Martian equator that may have held water at one time.

RESULTS: Water and Minerals That Can Form in Water Are Present on Mars

The images sent back by the Odyssey and MGS orbiters reveal that water covers large areas of Mars' polar regions as well as some large areas at its equator. The water is almost certainly frozen in the form of dusty snowpacks, which may occur largely as an icy soil layer. These icepacks may resemble the permafrost of Earth's polar regions.

In addition, Opportunity detected the presence of hematite at its landing site, the Meridiani Planum, an area on Mars that was thought to have been a shallow lake at one time. Hematite is a mineral that often forms in pools of standing water on Earth but can also form as a result of volcanic activity.

NASA's exploration rover Opportunity

Opportunity also found strong evidence that the rocks at Meridiani Planum were once sediments that were laid down by liquid water. This discovery also gives greater weight to the hypothesis that Mars was once a habitat for microbial life.

CONCLUSION: Mars Once Had Water

Chances are that the current mission to Mars will not determine whether life ever started on the planet, but scientists are hopeful that they will have an answer someday. Human exploration of Mars is already being planned. Astronauts would be able to carry out many experiments that robots cannot do.

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