Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:19pm BST
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Flabbergasted" NASA scientists said on Thursday that Martian soil appeared to contain the requirements to support life, although more work would be needed to prove it.
Scientists working on the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which has already found ice on the planet, said preliminary analysis by the lander's instruments on a sample of soil scooped up by the spacecraft's robotic arm had shown it to be much more alkaline than expected.
"We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past present or future," Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory on Phoenix, told journalists.
"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. ... It is very exciting for us."