Scientists with NASA's Phoenix Mars lander, which landed on Mars May 25, have shared findings from research in progress, showing the onboard wet chemistry laboratory has detected perchlorate salts in a Martian soil sample.
Perchlorate is an ion, or charged particle, that has an atom of chlorine surrounded by four oxygen atoms. It is an oxidant, meaning it can release oxygen, but it is not a powerful one. Perchlorates are naturally found on Earth at such places as Chile's extremely dry Atacama Desert. The compounds are quite stable and do not destroy organic material under normal circumstances. Some microorganisms on Earth are fueled by processes that involve perchlorates, and some plants concentrate the substance. Perchlorates are also used in rocket fuel and fireworks.
These audio clips came from a NASA media telecon held Tuesday, August 5.
More information on Phoenix is at http://www.nasa.gov/phoenix .
CUT 1 -MARS PHOENIX LANDER SCIENTIST SAMUEL KOUNAVES (koo-NAH-vays), OF TUFTS UNIVERSITY, SAYS THE PRESENCE OF PERCHLORATE DOES NOT RULE OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF LIFE ON MARS.
Running time: :10
OUT: "MOST ORGANISMS"
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Transcript of CUT 1: "It doesn't indicate anything that would be hostile to the extent, for example, if it was sulfuric acid or chlorine or something really lethal to organisms. It's a benign chemical in terms of most organisms."
CUT 2 -MARS PHOENIX LANDER SCIENTIST MICHAEL HECHT OF NASA'S JET PROPULSION LABORATORY IN PASADENA, EXPLAINS WHY THE TEAM WAS RELUCTANT TO SHARE THE PERCHLORATE FINDINGS AT FIRST, BUT DECIDED TO DO SO, IN PART, BECAUSE OF SPECULATIVE NEWS REPORTS. [NOTE THAT WECL REFERS TO THE INSTRUMENT'S WET CHEMISTRY LAB, WHILE TEGA REFERS TO ANOTHER INSTRUMENT, THE THERMAL AND EVOLVED-GAS ANALYZER].
Running time: :21
OUT: "DONE THAT YET"
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Transcript of CUT 2: "Just as we reach conclusions as human beings using all our senses -- our sight, our sense of smell, our hearing -- Phoenix was designed with an array of different tools to evaluate soil properties. In particular, while WECL if you will 'tastes' the sample, TEGA has the ability to sniff it, and we hadn't done that yet."