Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Scientists at a recent conference titled “The Present-Day Habitability of Mars” at the University of California Los Angeles discussed a potential energy source found on Mars–perchlorate, a chlorine-containing chemical detected on Mars by NASA’s Phoenix lander in 2008. And recent discoveries by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity indicate that perchlorate could be widespread across the planet.
Doug Archer, a scientist with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate of NASA’s Johnson Space Center presented the possibility of widespread perchlorates on Mars on March 18 at the 44th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. Archer pointed out that, in addition to Curiosity and Phoenix, previous robots, such as the Viking landers, Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity, detected chlorine at various locations on Mars.
Space.com points out that Archer carefully clarified, “I’m not saying that all of this chlorine everywhere on Mars is in the form of perchlorates . . . there are likely other chlorate salts as well.” He went on to explain, “I believe that at least some of the chlorine at all of these locations is present as perchlorate.”
According to Space.com, Archer believes “the implications of globally distributed perchlorates are very important for climate, habitability and present-day aqueous processes.”