NASA: Tests show Martian soil can support life

By | June 27, 2008

Finding more familiar than alien elements, NASA scientists today announced that their initial analysis found that Martian soil could support life. ….

“We were all very flabbergasted at the data we got back [from the wet chemistry tests],” said Samuel Kounaves, a professor at Tufts University and a research affiliate with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We basically have found what appears to be the requirements to support life, whether in the past, present or future. We have elements that you might find in your backyard.”

Kounaves said in a conference call with the media that, though the findings are preliminary, they’ve found the minerals that are essential to life in the Martian soil. The dirt there is very alkaline, with a pH level of between eight and nine. They’ve also found magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. They’re still waiting on analysis regarding evidence of sulfate in the soil.

The minerals in the Martian soil, according to Kounaves, are typical of soils here on Earth.

“Some kinds of Earth life would be happy to live in these soils,” he added. “Asparagus, green beans and turnips love alkaline soils.”

William Boynton, a professor at the University of Arizona and a co-investigator with the Mars mission, noted that they received interesting findings in an earlier oven test on a different patch of soil. In that test, when the soil was heated to about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, small amounts of carbon dioxide and water vapor were released. That, he said, shows that there had been water there in the past.

“There’s nothing about it that’s toxic. If you had it here, you could grow something in it,” said Kounaves. “We found that a broader range of life could grow there. It allows for the possibility for an environment like you would find on Earth, with a lot of different organisms. The amazing thing about Mars is not that it’s not an alien world, but it’s actually quite familiar.” – computerworld

We should start now. Plant asparagus on Mars.

3 thoughts on “NASA: Tests show Martian soil can support life

  1. Xeno Post author

    Mars on the surface is very cold, the atmosphere is thin, there can be no liquid water, and also the surface is bathed in deadly UV rays. (See this.) Extremophiles might live under the surface where there is also water. I’ll need to do more research to really answer your question.

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