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Potting Soil on Mars

We don't yet know if there's life on Mars, but now that we've found water, we know that there could soon be life there?HUMAN life. But we need more than water, we need food. Well, surprise! Martian dirt is similar to "potting soil" on earth?you could grow vegetables in it. In fact, BBC News reports that it would be excellent for growing asparagus.

BBC News quotes chemist Samuel Kounaves as saying, "We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life, whether past, present or future." He found the soil to be "very friendly? there is nothing about it that is toxic. 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."

This analysis is based on a cubic centimeter of soil scooped up from one inch below Mars' surface by the Phoenix lander's robotic arm. Martian dirt has the same basic chemistry as garden soil, with trace levels of magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. It also contains the other gardening necessity: the Arctic area where Phoenix touched down has large areas of WATER ice just below the surface.

In New Scientist, Rachel Courtland, quotes chemist Samuel Kounaves as saying that, after analyzing the soil, "We were all very flabbergasted at the data we got back."

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