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'Organics' found on Mars?

'Organics' found on Mars? - In the Viking tests the Martian soil was heated sufficiently to vaporize organic molecules in the soil and the resultant gases and vapors were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chlorohydrocarbons were found at landing site 1 and 2, but they were dismissed at the time as terrestrial contaminants, even though they were not found at the same levels in blank runs. Then, in 2008 the Phoenix lander discovered perchlorate in the Martian arctic soil. Perchlorates are well known as powerful oxidizing compounds that combust organics, but their presence in Martian soils was not suspected in the 1970s.

After the Martian soils were found to contain perchlorates, scientists from Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico City, and NASA’s Space Science Division at Moffett Field, California, decided to test the soils of the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is considered more like Mars than anywhere else on Earth.

The research, reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research, found that when soil samples containing organic carbon were mixed with magnesium perchlorate and then heated, the same kind of combusted chlorohydrocarbons were found as had been detected on Mars by the Viking lander and dismissed as contaminants.

'Organics' found on Mars?

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