Do they destroy it too? – Robot landers that were sent to Mars to search for life may actually have destroyed it.

In New Scientist, David Shiga reports that NASA’s Phoenix lander found chemicals called perchlorates in the Martian soil. When heated, these release oxygen and thus cause nearby material to burn (which is why they are used in rocket fuel). The heat from the Mars lander may have heated the perchlorates in the soil and burned away any life forms there before the lander could detect them.

Meanwhile, researchers have shown that salts formed from perchlorates discovered at the Phoenix landing site have the potential to be found in liquid solution under the temperature and pressure conditions on present day Mars. Researcher Vincent F. Chevrier says, “Under real, observed Martian conditions, you can have a stable liquid. You don’t necessarily need to have a lot of water to have life, but you need liquid water at some point.”

As long as the heat from those landers doesn’t destroy it.

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