Syngenta, Monsanto and Saudi Arabia Announce Plans to Buy Mars

(Times Online) -- Nasa scientists who have reviewed the results of the first analysis of soil collected by the Phoenix Mars lander say they were 'flabbergasted' to find that it contained all the basic requirements, in terms of minerals and nutrients, to sustain life on the Red Planet.

It was also much less acidic than the experts had expected - and suprisingly similar to garden dirt back on Earth.

“There is nothing about the soil that would preclude life. In fact it seems very friendly,” said Professor Samuel Kounaves of Tufts University, the project’s lead chemist, told reporters in a telephone conference.

“The soil you have there is the type of soil you have in your backyard,” he added. “You may be able to grow asparagus very well."

The analysis is based on a cubic centimetre of soil scooped up by the lander’s robotic arm and introduced into one of its eight ovens, where it was gradually heated up to 1,000C. Professor Kounaves said his team was “flabbergasted” at the results that came back.

“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements of the nutrients to support life, past, present or future," he said.

The analysis showed that the Martian soil contained minerals including magnesium, potassium and sodium. “There are probably other mineral species, we are still working on data,” Professor Kounaves said.