Another key target for SAM is organic compounds and, although the instrument appears to have detected some evidence of organic chemistry in this first soil sample, the detection is likely Earth-bound contamination. Besides, organic chemistry existing so close to the surface in a wind-blown sample isn't thought to be likely.
PHOTOS: Mars Through Curiosity's Powerful MAHLI Camera
"We find that organics are not likely preserved in surface soils, which are exposed to harsh radiation and oxidants," said Leshin. "We didn't necessarily expect to find organic molecules in the surface fines, and this supports Curiosity's strategy of drilling into rocks to continue the search for organic compounds. Finding samples with a better chance of organic preservation is key."
The discovery of this surprising amount of water presents an interesting twist in our odyssey of Martian discovery, a fact not lost on the SAM researchers.
"We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars," she added. "When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water."