Samples of Martian dirt reveal toxic chemicals and water


Science News: The results of the Mars rover Curiosity’s first chemical analysis of the planet’s dirt are a mixed bag for people who want to move there. David Blake of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and his colleagues examined data gathered by the rover after it subjected scoops of dirt to alpha radiation and x rays. Based on their reflected spectra, the dirt samples appeared to be a mixture of volcanic rocks and glassy particles. The analysis revealed that 2% of the samples was water, probably trapped from the atmosphere. Also present were a variety of chlorine compounds, including perchlorate, a toxic chemical used in rocket fuels. A separate examination of a nearby rock revealed it to be nearly identical with a rare form of igneous rock found on Earth and formed from lava. The finding may offer some clues to the history of the formation of Mars, although it is too early to say whether that kind of rock is as rare on Mars as it is on Earth.


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