It’s Growing And It’s On Mars

But It’s Not Likely Alive

Nonetheless, it’s pretty odd, interesting stuff that’s clumping up on the legs and struts of the Mars Phoenix lander. It’s also sticky and clumpy and that’s why the Martian soil gave Phoenix so many problems when it tried to dump some into the lander’s ovens.

Clumps of material have adhered to the legs of the Phoenix Mars Lander, and the clumps continue to change and grow. The science team has discussed various possible explanations for these clumps. One suggestion is that they may have started from a splash of mud if Phoenix’s descent engines melted icy soil during the landing.

Whatever it is that’s condensing on the struts sticks better when it’s colder, too, and is favoring the north side, like moss on trees, for that reason.

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2 Comments on “It’s Growing And It’s On Mars”

  1. Steve Says:

    It could also be chemical growth. Did you ever have one of those kits as a kid where you had this dark blue-green liquid, and it grew colored stalagmite-like things above it?

    The Martian water cycle probably results in moisture percolated up through the soil and evaporates into the atmosphere. In a sufficiently chemical-rich brine, could something similar be happening here?

    It is a real pity that the probe was not designed to work with the ice and permafrost when it was sent for just such a reason, or we could sample that ‘sticky’ stuff.

  2. joe Says:

    It most certainly is chemical growth, Steve, exactly like you describe. I don’t know enough of the details, but from what I’ve read the suspicions are that minerals and salts carried in the atmosphere are being deposited on Phoenix. It’s the stickiness and clumpiness that seems to be surprising the scientists.

    I understand that they were prepared for a wide range of soil typed, some darn-near as hard as concrete in that permafrost. Sticky was a bit unexpected.

    Thanks for reading, Steve.


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