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Perchlorate found in Martian soil does not rule out life on Mars


August 19, 2011 - Washington

Scientists had previously suggested that soil examined by NASA's Viking Mars landers in 1976 might have contained carbon-based chemical building blocks of life.

But a new interpretation of Viking measurements indicates that the Martian soils contained highly oxidizing compounds, which could present extremely harsh conditions for life.

Recent observations from the Phoenix Mars Mission pointed to evidence of perchlorate, a potentially highly oxidizing compound, in the soils.

Perchlorate is a highly oxidized chlorate and is commonly used as a powerful rocket fuel. Perchlorate is so rich in oxygen it could also fuel Martian metabolisms.

However, some scientists have said that because perchlorate is highly stable, its presence in Martian soils cannot explain the Viking measurements.

A new analysis of Mars soil samples using the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, a component of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer on the NASA Mars Phoenix Lander found that although low levels of oxidizing compounds may be present, the oxidation-reduction potential of the soil is moderate and well within the range expected for habitable soils.

ANI

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