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Martian soil 'could support life'

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7477310.stm

Martian soil appears to contain sufficient nutrients to support life - or, at least, asparagus - Nasa scientists believe.

Preliminary analysis by the $420m (£210m) Phoenix Mars Lander mission on the planet's soil found it to be much more alkaline than expected.

Scientists working on the spacecraft project said they were "flabbergasted" by the discovery.

The find has raised hopes conditions on Mars may be favourable for life.

"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life, whether past, present or future," said Sam Kounaves, the project's lead chemist, from the University of Arizona.

Exciting data

Although he said further tests would have to be conducted, Mr Kounaves said the soil seemed "very friendly… there is nothing about it that is toxic," he said.

o.gifstart_quote_rb.gif We were all flabbergasted at the data we got back end_quote_rb.gif

Sam Kounaves

University of Arizona

"It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard - you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well."

As well as being far less acidic than anticipated, the soil was also found to contain traces of magnesium, sodium, potassium and other elements.

"We were all flabbergasted at the data we got back," said Mr Kounaves. "It is very exciting for us."

The analysis is based on a cubic centimetre of soil scooped from 2.5cm (one inch) below Mars' surface by the lander's robotic arm.

The sample was then tested using the "wet chemistry" technique, which involves mixing the soil with water brought from Earth and heating the sample in one of the lander's eight ovens.

Ice stores

After a 10-month flight from Earth, Phoenix touched down successfully on Mars' northern plains on 25 May, to undertake a three-month study of the planet's geological history.

_44701372_phoenix_lander466.gif Phoenix is undertaking a three-month study of Mars' geological history

The Arctic location where Phoenix touched down is thought to hold large stores of water-ice just below the surface.

Last week, scientists said they were positive there was ice on the planet after eight dice-sized chunks were seen melting away in a series of photographs.

But Phoenix has so far not detected organic carbon - considered an essential building block of life.


I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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They may be jumping the gun as usual ... now that they think they found water.


I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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I don't get why ppl find it so hard to believe that Mars could have been much like earth way back in the day. We've been neighbors for about 4 billion years, the same comets and what not that are credited with bringing different elements to earth also passed Mars at some point too.

4 billion years is hella long


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