NASA scientists are surprised by the preliminary analysis of the Martian soil by the Phoenix Mars Lander, they say it's much more similar to the type of soil you would have in your backyard than they expected. The soil doesn't contain any toxic elements, it's less acidic than anticipated and it contains sufficient nutrients to grow plants like asparagus.
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.
"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.