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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 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 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!

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.

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