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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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RE: We presume too much
By Steve Guilliot on 8/5/2008 1:35:04 PM , Rating: 5
Perchlorate is an oxidizer, but so are oxygen and chlorine, yet you breathe air and drink treated water. As you say, it's all about concentration.

We also have to consider when life evolved and the atmospheric chemistry at the time. Speaking from an evolutionist's point of view, life on Earth started in a reducing atmosphere. The atmosphere transitioned from reducing to oxidizing after life was sufficiently complex to adapt. There are simply too many questions about Mars to conclude anything at this point.

Granted, news about reducing agents would have been more favorable to those hoping for life, but we can't pick and choose data.


RE: We presume too much
By masher2 (blog) on 8/5/2008 2:47:48 PM , Rating: 2
Good post. I agree, the evidence is a long way from conclusive, but its certainly a strike against the possibility of life.


RE: We presume too much
By mindless1 on 8/5/2008 7:02:56 PM , Rating: 2
If you believe in evolution, a life form which develops would survive within the conditions present. We hope we know one way life evolved here, but we don't know it is the only way it could happen. You can build a house entirely out of brick or straw and fire is deadly to only one of them.


RE: We presume too much
By TheLiberalTruth on 8/5/2008 11:48:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
its certainly a strike against the possibility of life


Not really. There are bacteria here on Earth which are resistant to Chlorine at the levels we use in our pools. Evolution at work.


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