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Flying Telescope Detects Oxygen On Mars For The First Time

Our dreams of spending time on the red planet without unfashionable space helmets are one step closer to reality.

The SOFIA airborne telescope, a telescope built into a jumbo jet, has measured the amount of atomic oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars for the first time in almost half a century. 
 
Initially detected during NASA’s first missions, Mariner and Viking, to the red planet in the 60s and 70s, this is the first time oxygen has been detected from so far away. Atomic oxygen - that is, a single oxygen atom, not the two atom O2 that us earthlings need to not die - is a highly reactive element which is rapidly combined with other molecules. This makings finding pure oxygen very difficult.
 
So this doesn’t mean we’ll be able to breathe on our martian vacations but it does give us insight into the chemical makeup of Mars and the amount of water there since pure oxygen is created when H2O is blasted by ultraviolet light. 

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