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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Scientists Find Water Under Mars' Surface

LONDON -- Water under the surface of Mars could speed up the search for life on the red planet, a British space scientist said Monday.

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has reportedly detected water, seen as a prerequisite for Earth-type life on the planet, which would end speculation about what happened to the liquid that many astronomers believe once covered much of its surface.

Scientists are expected to announce more details about the discovery after the findings are published in the U.S. journal Science later this week.

"This is new good news for Mars exploration," Colin Pillinger, a professor of planetary and space science at Britain's Open University, said.

Pillinger headed the team of scientists who developed the Beagle 2 Mars lander that will be carried in the European Space Agency's Mars Express when it is launched in May 2003.

The aim of the mission is to study the geology of the planet for evidence relating to past life on Mars. Beagle 2 is due to arrive at Mars in December 2003.

"We have argued for ages that there is water on Mars because we have measured Martian meteorites that say there is water there," Pillinger said.

He said the data from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft support their findings and puts Beagle 2 in a good position to look for signs of life on the planet.

"This enhances our chances of finding past and present life wherever we land," he said.