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Scientists Find First Physical Evidence Mars Could Support Life

By Jessica Berman
26 June 2008

Scientists say an analysis of a soil sample by the Mars Lander Phoenix shows that Mars could support life. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

Scientists with the US space agency NASA appear to have finally found what they were seeking when they sent Phoenix millions of kilometers to the Red planet.

When the lander analyzed soil it had scooped up two weeks ago, water vapor was released when the lander heated the dirt to over 538 degrees centigrade.

Sam Kovanis is lead chemist with the Phoenix Mars project at the University of Arizona.

"This is the first wet chemical analysis on the Martian soil and any other planet besides Earth, and we were all flabbergasted with the data we got back," said Sam Kovanis.

To the surprise of scientists, the soil was not too acidic to sustain life. In fact, Kovanis says it appears to contain enough minerals that make Earth bound plants flourish.

"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life, whether past, present or future, the sort of soil you have there, the type of soil you'd probably have in your backyard, alkaline, you might be able to grow asparagus in it really well, strawberries not very well," he said. "And again, this is one more piece of evidence showing that the soil's out there by some sort of liquid water action in the history of Mars."

At this point, scientists say they are can only measure the chemistry of the Red planet, not determine what, if any, life inhabited Mars.

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