NASA finds toxin in Martian soil

Posted on Tuesday, Aug 05 2008 @ 23:47 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Last weekend there were rumours that NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander had found something exciting on Mars but unfortunately the news isn't exactly what most people had been hoping for. NASA announced today that Phoenix has found traces of perchlorate, a toxic chemical, in the Martian soil and according to media reports this limits the possibility of life on the planet.
The perchlorate chemical, often times used in solid rocket fuel, is an odd discovery, forcing researchers to try and check to ensure the chemical didn't get taken to Mars from Earth. Several more soil tests in the area will be conducted by researchers, although they are not sure how the chemical develops or the exact amount of it in the soil.

"While we have not completed our process on these soil samples, we have very interesting intermediate results," said Peter Smith, principal investigator from the project.

The Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer aboard the Phoenix recently tested two different soil samples collected at the north pole. MECA previously painted a rather optimistic picture about the possibility of life on the Red Planet, which became more believable after evidence of ice crumbs found on the planet.

NASA decided to use MECA on Mars because it is able to test the acidity and presence of certain chemicals, salts and minerals in all collected soil samples.

Researchers believe it's still possible that life has existed on the planet, and believe it's possible life could be found in underground aquifers that are able to help reduce exposure to the toxic soil.


About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.



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