The stream of news from Phoenix lander keeps arriving. Now it's the preliminary results of the first wet-chemical analysis of soil other than Earth's.
"This soil appears to be a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica," Kouvanes [Tuft University researcher] said. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one-inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride."
"This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it."
University of Arizona's researcher, Tedd Byton says:
"At this point, we can say that the soil has clearly interacted with water in the past."
Still a lot to come.
Update: the BBC version of this news item, quotes Kouvanes pondering the excellent qualities of the Martian soil:
It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard - you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well.So like in the Navarrese Erribera (Low Country, famous for its asparagus, among other crops). Is actually Mars like Bardeak?
Kind of, I guess.
But seriously, a former gardener advise: you may want a more acidic soil than pH 8 if you hope to keep a nice lawn. 6.5 (slightly acidic) is optimal. But maybe not for asparagus - I have to check.