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The existence of a toxic chemical discovered in the Martian soil could reduce the chances of life being found on the planet

Even though there appears to be traces of water on the Red Planet of Mars, a toxic chemical found in the soil located near the Martian north pole has put a damper on 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.  

Alongside MECA, NASA also is using the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) to help try and find evidence of organic chemicals and the possibility of life on the Mars' surface.

Brown University researcher John Mustard, who doesn't have a hand in the project, said that all researchers should reserve judgment regarding the possibility of life on the Red Planet because of the existence of perchlorate.

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Mars, the fuel station...
By Cosworth on 8/5/2008 8:16:20 AM , Rating: 2
Now, this chemical may only be local to the area, or possibly just the small spot that the lander happened to land on. But, if the entire planet were like this, I could definitely see Mars becoming a large place to just mine rocket fuel in the future.

Great... Another place for environmentalists to protect..

RE: Mars, the fuel station...
By FITCamaro on 8/5/2008 8:31:20 AM , Rating: 3
Actually I was thinking the same thing. Maybe not mining it for mass use but it does provide a potential source of fuel for a return trip home for a manned mission to Mars.

RE: Mars, the fuel station...
By Dark Legion on 8/5/2008 2:27:09 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm...but would there actually really be any gain considering that you have to fly from Earth to Mars, then back? It seems that it would make more sense to do what FIT said, otherwise it might not be worth it.

RE: Mars, the fuel station...
By FITCamaro on 8/5/08, Rating: 0
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