Slashdot | Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find

Slashdot | Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find

Even if Mars never had life, comets and asteroids that have struck the planet should have scattered at least some organic molecules over its surface but landers have failed to detect even minute quantities of organic compounds. Now scientists say they may have stumbled on something in the Martian soil that may have, in effect, been hiding the organics: a class of chemicals called perchlorates. At low temperatures, perchlorates are relatively harmless but when heated to hundreds of degrees Celsius perchlorates release a lot of oxygen, which tends to cause any nearby combustible material to burn. The Phoenix and Viking landers looked for organic molecules by heating soil samples to similarly high temperatures to evaporate them and analyse them in gas form. When Douglas Ming of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and colleagues tried heating organics and perchlorates like this on Earth, the resulting combustion left no trace of organics behind.

Uh, oops…


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One Response to “Slashdot | Mars Robot May Destroy Life It Was Sent To Find”

  1. Steve Goodwin Says:

    I was thinking some kind of contamination from a superbug that mutated during the trip and then ate Mars or something. They are just sterilizing the test area BEFORE testing rather than AFTER. Kinda a “shoes & socks” thing, eh?

    I think we’ll eventually find life on Mars, I just wonder if life on Mars will find US….


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