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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 JediJeb on 8/5/2008 4:16:47 PM , Rating: 2
If the presence of perchlorate compounds negates the possibility of life on Mars, then most cities on earth right now should be lifeless because if you test the drinking water there you will find traces of perchlorate. It is one of the compounds the EPA has us test for in drinking water supplies and comes from the chlorination process used to purify water. So in small concentrations it would not be toxic, and as the article said they weren't able to measure the concentration, only the presence.

Mercury is also considered toxic, but it can easily be found in drinking water at parts per trillion concentrations. So if you actually drink 1 trillion liters of water you will have about 1 gram of mercury accumulated in your body.


RE: We presume too much
By mindless1 on 8/5/2008 7:06:36 PM , Rating: 2
Even if they can't quantitatively measure the concentration there is still a good chance the test can resolve at least a certain minimum level was detected. IOW, if you put a cup of water through the same test, it might not have detected the low level.


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