The Phoenix Mars Lander has almost completed its first set of ‘wet chemistry’ experiments on the red planet’s soil and scientists very excited with what they’ve found. A preliminary analysis of soil samples have found it to be a lot more alkaline than expected, meaning that it could support life.
A single cubic meter of soil was recovered by the lander’s robotic arm. Its pH has been measured at between eight and nine, and the instruments have also detected salts components, including magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chlorine.
“It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline,” said Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory on Phoenix. “You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. … It is very exciting for us.”
I’m not particularly green fingered but I think the -30 degree C surface temperature might be more of an obstacle. Still, I’ll donate a bag of miracle grow and a watering can if someone wants to give Space Asparagus a go.
This finding and the discovery of ice last week are all very encouraging indications that there might have once been life on the planet. Next we’re waiting for results from the complex Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer (TEGA) which is currently working on a further soil sample.