Panorama image of crater on Mars  (Source: NASA)
Scientists gleefully report that the Martian soil is able to support life

NASA scientists working the Phoenix Mars Lander mission believe the soil in Mars could support life, but will continue to gather evidence to be entirely sure.  

Using the lander, scientists discovered the Martian soil is more alkaline than they initially expected before landing on the Red Planet.  The discovery made them "flabbergasted," with findings made after a wet chemistry experiment was made by Phoenix on Wednesday.

Phoenix's robotic arm collected a cubic centimeter of Martian soil just one inch below the surface.  Once inside of Phoenix, it was mixed with Earth water and heated in an oven.

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

The soil is "very friendly" and "it is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline," Kounaves said.  "You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well ... It is very exciting for us."

The preliminary results show the alkaline soil has a pH level of between eight and nine.  They reported magnesium, potassium, chloride and sodium were also found, with each mineral also found in soil here on Earth.  The soil could grow asparagus beans or turnips, but is too acidic for strawberries or blueberries.

Scientists now wonder what they'll be able to find even further nutrients once they begin to dig deeper below the surface.

Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25 and is scheduled for a three-month study of areas on the surface where scientists hope to find evidence of living organisms.  They recently found ice crumbs that would make it possible for humans could easily use and make safe to drink, and the soil would be able to support crops.  

Even with the recent findings of ice crumbs and soil ideal for plant life, the lander still hasn't found evidence that anything has lived or is living on the planet.  Since virtually everywhere on Earth that has a reliable water source can also support life, "could it also be true at Mars?"

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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