backtop


Print 79 comment(s) - last by Oregonian2.. on Aug 8 at 2:59 PM

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.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Eggs in a Basket
By marsbound2024 on 8/5/2008 9:05:54 AM , Rating: 5
Let's not put all our eggs in one basket. Phoenix is just one mission landing at one spot and could have indeed contaminated the soil in reach of its robotic arm. Of course, with its rocket thrusters firing down onto Mars, I would assume some chemicals might have been mixed it with the soil. I would say a true test would be the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory and the potential successor the Astrobiology Field Laboratory. These rovers would be able to traverse vast distances far and away from the landing sites giving us a truer picture of the Mars soil characteristics.

For those that don't remember, there was speculation that Phoenix would contaminate or even destroy Martian organics in the first place by firing its thrusters right until it touched down. It seems a bit obvious to me that hot, chemical thrusters and fragile organic material just don't make a good story for getting a true sampling of the Martian environment.




"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007











botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki