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Mars NASA Science

Mars Rover Finds Complex Chemicals But No Organic Compounds 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the plastic-not-included dept.
techtech writes in with the results from the first soil samples tested by the Curiosity rover. "Although NASA's Curiosity rover hasn't yet confirmed the detection of organic compounds on Mars, it's already seeing that the Red Planet's soil contains complex chemicals — including signs of an intriguing compound called perchlorate. The first soil sample analysis from Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars lab, or SAM, was the leadoff topic today at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. The findings were eagerly awaited because of rumors that the Curiosity team was on the verge of announcing major findings — and although NASA tamped down expectations, the scientists said they were overjoyed with the first round of analysis."
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Mars Rover Finds Complex Chemicals But No Organic Compounds

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  • by Squidlips (1206004) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:06PM (#42171833)
    There is some good science being done and the Good Stuff will be when Curiosity reaches the clay layers at the base of Mt Sharp, so be patient. There is also the minor mystery of the chlorinated methane products...
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:11PM (#42171889) Homepage Journal

    When follow-up tests confirmed that it wasn't organic compounds, they saved face by pulling this "Oh, the press just misinterpreted what he was saying" stuff.

    Or maybe ... the press just misinterpreted what he was saying. Because that's usually the way to bet when it comes to sensationalist science reporting. But you know, if you'd rather believe the worst about NASA scientists, go ahead. They'll keep doing good, professional work regardless of what you think.

  • Rocket fuel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday December 03, 2012 @03:14PM (#42171919)
    They mention that the Calcium Perchlorate may be an energy source. How about using it to manufacture rocket fuel on mars? It's similar to other oxidizers used in solid fuel rockets. Wouldn't it be strange if the fuel for a return-to-earth trip could be manufactured right there from materials lying right there on the planet surface? Or am I totally smoking something?
  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday December 03, 2012 @04:27PM (#42172589)

    It is a wicked oxydizer, and it does kill most terrestrial microbes almost instantly. (Its basically bleach.)

    However, the degree of lethality is deprendent on concentration of the perchlorate salt (my understanding was that it was under 1% of the sample, suggesting it was a low yeild, but omnipresent mineral), as a small qualtity would be tolerable to extremophiles, which is what you would expect in the extreme conditions on mars.

    Life on mars appears more and more to fall into a very narrow band of habitablility, like the photosynthetic soil microbes of antarctica, assuming it exists at all.

    Missions like this one give us a better understanding of martian environmental conditions, and allow us to make better guesses about what areas of mars might potentially harbor life.

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