Friday, June 27, 2008

The Sands of Mars


Microscopic view of fine-grained materiel seen by Robotic Arm Camera aboard Phoenix Lander June 20, 2008

The Phoenix Lander has completed its first chemistry experiment. The soil is very close to what one would find in the dry valleys of Antarctica. Those valleys have similiar atmospheric conditions to Mars. Salts found include magnesium, sodium, pottasium and chloride; all nutrients that support life. The salts themselves are still more evidence of water. In many aspects of its mineralogy Mars is very much like Earth. We are amazingly close to discovering life on another planet.

This week Slacker Astronomy hosts the Carnival of Space!

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5 Comments:

Blogger Ed said...

"We are amazingly close to discovering life on another planet."

Would fivefold radial symmetry be enough to prove the discovery of past life on Mars?

http://xenotechresearch.com/o111fos1.htm

6:10 PM  
Blogger nige said...

"... The soil is very close to what one would find in the dry valleys of Antarctica. Those valleys have similiar atmospheric conditions to Mars. Salts found include magnesium, sodium, pottasium and chloride; all nutrients that support life. ..."

Obviously a major ingredient is iron (III) oxide, Fe_2 O_3, judging by the red colour of that soil sample. This suggests a massive abundance of oxygen and iron on Mars, because a tremendous of oxygen must be tied up in the iron oxide. Reduce the iron oxide using a solar powered blast furnace, and you release the gaseous oxygen plus metallic iron, both valuable for habitation of Mars.

11:03 PM  
Blogger nige said...

My comment should say "tremendous amount of oxygen".

From memory, I recall that it's traditionally a bit tricky to reduce iron oxide to get iron plus oxygen. I think that this is why the iron age came after the bronze age.

But I think that's because on earth we have an atmosphere that contains 21% oxygen. Hence, if you heat up iron oxide to release oxygen, it will simply oxidise again before the metal has a chance to cool down. At high temperature, the oxidation rate is high.

Even if you try to reduce iron oxide in confined container with no oxygen initially present, there will be oxygen released by the iron oxide as it is converted into oxygen + iron metal, and the metalic iron will simply end up oxidising again from the oxgyen before the temperature drops low enough to inhibit oxidation.

To get around this problem, I think that smelters used to mix activated charcoal with the iron ore, and then heat it in an absence of oxygen. The activated charcoal acted as a sponge for oxygen as it was released, preventing the iron from oxidising again while it cooled.

However, because there is little atmospheric oxygen on Mars, I think you could heat up the soil in the atmosphere to release the oxygen, with little risk of the reduced iron immediately reoxidising. Maybe a special furnace could be designed which would pipe off the oxygen to be cooled, compressed and stored in bottles.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous generic viagra said...

That sounds great, because the way we are doing now on the earth, soon we gonna need another place to live... well maybe this is gonna be possible in 300 years, because now there's not even possible to go mars.
Thanks for sharing, excellent post.

5:13 AM  
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5:27 PM  

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