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Saturday, June 28, 2008
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Martian soil good enough for asparagus: Nasa

This June 20 image released on Thursday by Nasa shows a microscopic view of fine-grained material at the tip of the Robotic Arm scoop as seen by the Robotic Arm Camera (RAC) aboard Nasa's Phoenix Mars Lander on the 26th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Photo: AFP

Martian dirt is apparently good enough for asparagus to grow in, Nasa scientists said Thursday, as they announced the results of a soil analysis collected by the US Phoenix Mars lander.

"There is nothing about the soil that would preclude life. In fact it seems very friendly," said Samuel Kounaves, the project's lead chemist at the University of Arizona in a telephone press conference.

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

The analysis is based on a cubic centimeter 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 1,000 degrees Celsius.

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