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article imageNASA says asparagus should grow well on Mars

By Chris V. Thangham     Jun 27, 2008 in Environment
NASA scientists speculate that Phoenix Mars Lander has found enough nutrients in the Martian soil to support life, especially asparagus.
The Phoenix Mars Lander is analyzing the soil ingredients with its on board instruments. Preliminary information reveals that the soil may contain sufficient nutrients to support plant life. NASA scientists think the soil may be alkaline in nature, which may help grow, of all things, asparagus. However, other plants like strawberries may not be able to thrive on the alkaline soil.
The Phoenix Mars Lander scooped soil from 2.5 cm (one inch) below Mars' surface with its robotic arm, and then tested the sample using the "wet chemistry" technique which involves combining soil with water (taken from Earth and stored in the Lander). The mixture was then heated in one of the Lander's eight ovens. The full results will be announced soon.
Even the preliminary information surprises scientists who are thrilled by the discovery that Mars could be favorable to life in the future.
Sam Kounaves, the project's lead chemist, from the University of Arizona told BBC:
"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life, whether past, present or future...It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard - you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well."
Kounaves, however, said further testing is necessary to confirm this finding. He said the Martian soil seems to be very friendly in nature. There is no toxicity found in the soil.
The Martian soil was also found to contain traces of magnesium, sodium, potassium and other elements.
Previously, Phoenix's camera captured images that showed melting of ice on the surface. And now nutrients in the soil are being discovered. According to scientists, only thing missing on Mars is the organic carbon, the building block of life.
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