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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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By Motoman on 8/5/2008 10:26:47 AM , Rating: 2
No. Because all that "common sense" you just barfed up would've kept people from bothering to check for life in hot springs, or alakaline desert pools, or the lightless bottom of the ocean, or any number of truly ludicrous places where life has been found thriving.

So stop. The exploration of Mars is amazing and a crucial step in furthering the ability of man to extend his reach from one measly planet. Even if Mars turns out to be dead...it will be of enormous value to determine why it's dead.


By jabber on 8/5/2008 10:45:15 AM , Rating: 2
Not really cos those places are a little closer to home and whilst still very hostile are somewhat easier and cheaper to get to.

By all means learn all we can about this wonderful living world first cos we might find something really useful.

Then take a look at that big dead lump of dust/iron.

Plenty to be looked at here at home that needs more attention.


By mindless1 on 8/5/2008 7:21:04 PM , Rating: 2
That's a bit like saying if we extensively study a baseball it will certainly help us play basketball. Sometimes you can gather all the data possible about something but ultimately you didn't learn a thing that was useful towards a particular goal you had when you started gathering the data. IOW, we don't necessarily need to know 1000 ways something won't work, only enough ways it will.


By Motoman on 8/6/2008 12:40:41 AM , Rating: 2
Our in-depth info on dead worlds stands at...zero. So if Mars is dead, it's our first point of data. If it isn't, or wasn't, then it's even more important.


By jabber on 8/6/2008 4:35:49 AM , Rating: 2
Lets see what the past and future will bring us in Mars. Here are somw headlines -

1975 - Mars Viking - Its probably dead!
1988 - Mars Probe - Still looks dead!
2004 - Mars - Still no sign of life...kind of dead!
2008 - Mars - Bit icy but...well still dead!
2018 - Mars Manned Mission - NASA kinda dissapointed its dead!
2023 - Mars - Even more extensive and expensive test show still no sign of life - Its dead!
etc.
etc.
etc.


By Motoman on 8/6/2008 1:00:30 PM , Rating: 2
...pretty sure we'd stop at the 2018 mission...once you've put people on the ground and they can't find anything, I'd say stick a fork in it - it's done.

Which isn't to say at that point that there may not be good reason to keep working on Mars...maybe to set up a permanently manned station for various research, which at that point may have absolutely squat to do with Mars at that point.


By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2008 3:50:40 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
So stop. The exploration of Mars is amazing and a crucial step in furthering the ability of man to extend his reach from one measly planet.


No its really not. Its just another planet. So what ?

quote:
Even if Mars turns out to be dead...it will be of enormous value to determine why it's dead.


You make it sound like all planets are lush with life, and we MUST desperately discover what " went wrong " on Mars. You couldn't get further from the truth. How is pouring more tax money into Mars exploration of " enourmous " value to mankind ?

I agree with the OP. I personally can't wait for Nasa's love affair with " life " on Mars and other planets to end. I don't see one single benefit to our society in finding a long dead single cell bacteria frozen in Mars ice. Honestly, whats the point ?

I'm FAR more interested in making major discoveries in space travel and propulsion so that a trip to Mars won't take months on end and cost million of dollars.


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