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Mars Stinks: Sulfur Deposits May Make Red Planet Putrid
space.com ^ | 3/8/04 | Leonard David

Posted on 03/09/2004 10:36:18 PM PST by LibWhacker

If you’ve got a nose for news, here’s a bulletin: Mars may smell to high heaven.

Recent revelations about the red planet from NASA’s two Mars exploration rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- have relayed back details about the volcanic and water-laden landscape.

For example, at the Meridiani Planum site in which the wheeled Opportunity now roves, the robotic field geologist found a very high concentration of sulfur. The chemical form of this sulfur appears to be in magnesium, iron or other sulfate salts.

Using its science gear, the robot has detected a hydrated iron sulfate mineral called jarosite.

On Earth, rocks with as much salt as this Mars rock either have formed in water or, after formation, have been highly altered by long exposures to water. Jarosite may point to the rock's wet history having been in an acidic lake or an acidic hot springs environment.

Sulfur, acids, magnesium, iron -- all put together under the carbon dioxide-rich skies of Mars -- could just reek.

Eye of the smelling beholder

"You have sulfur and you have oxidizing environments…you make the sulfate. And then if you end up with some acid-favoring situations, like acid groundwaters, you make sulfuric acid. Out of that comes hydrogen sulphide as a byproduct in some reactions…and you start to stink," said Jim Garvin, NASA Lead Scientist for Mars and Lunar Exploration in Washington, D.C.

Garvin said on his field excursions here on Earth to volcanic areas, the sulfurous stench to him is a kind of cleansing smell. "I don’t know. It may stink in the eye of the smelling beholder," he told SPACE.com .

While the aroma of Mars might not be daunting for robots, knowing more about how that environment appeals to future human explorers is serious business.

Unpleasant odor

For one, hydrogen sulphide (H2S) is a gas encountered worldwide here on Earth. Drilling formations with the presence of H2S can encounter some very serious problems. While it gives off an unpleasant odor and can stir up a headache, it is also explosive and poisonous.

No doubt future Mars explorers tromping about the red planet will be well-suited to work outside their habitat. But precautions must be taken.

Humans on Mars don’t have to look back too far in the space exploration journals to take note of what Apollo moonwalkers encountered.

After bouncing about on the Moon and crawling back into their lunar module, several Apollo astronauts noticed they had tracked back into their home-away-from-home rock and dust particles. In doffing their helmets, the smell was likened to wet ashes in a fireplace, even spent gunpowder from a just fired shotgun.

If Mars is to be home base for 21st century astronauts, much more data about the planet is necessary before humans set foot, and nose, on that faraway world.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: mars; stinks; sulfur

1 posted on 03/09/2004 10:36:18 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
I hope they find gold on Mars.
3 posted on 03/09/2004 10:54:13 PM PST by Spruce (Peace be with you.)
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To: hole_n_one
Have you looked at its FR homepage?
5 posted on 03/10/2004 5:37:02 AM PST by Clara Lou
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To: Spruce
Me, too! And diamonds and rubies and anything else that'll entice us to go. A stinking cesspool sure isn't very enticing.
6 posted on 03/10/2004 9:04:14 AM PST by LibWhacker
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To: RIGHT IN LAS VEGAS
Whats the deal with picking on First Daughters? I cut her alot of slack, having been brought up in what is undoubtedly a screwed up home. And also, I would clean up you FR homepage. Some of it is crudge and offensive, and probably not "OK" by the owners( JimRob) standards.
7 posted on 03/10/2004 11:23:27 AM PST by Paradox (In the future, everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.)
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To: LibWhacker
Part of terraforming a new planet would be making it smell nice. Aha! a new tech specialty!
8 posted on 03/10/2004 11:26:44 AM PST by RightWhale (Theorems link concepts; proofs establish links)
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To: LibWhacker
This explains the anger in Marvin.


9 posted on 03/10/2004 11:33:36 AM PST by xp38
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To: hole_n_one
"At the core of modern liberalism is the spoiled child - miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats ." (PJ O'Rourke)

Some of his stuff is a bit coarse...but you got to admit it has a certain flare. LMAO!

10 posted on 03/10/2004 11:36:34 AM PST by Dead Dog
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To: RightWhale
I'm gonna corner the market on Chanel - No.5 Eau De Toilette Spray and make a killing! ;-)
11 posted on 03/10/2004 12:18:46 PM PST by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker
That's why the Martians live underground.
12 posted on 03/10/2004 12:22:36 PM PST by Consort
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To: Paradox
NO!
13 posted on 03/10/2004 11:39:39 PM PST by RIGHT IN LAS VEGAS
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To: LibWhacker
I wonder what the story will be when they find Mars once had all the right conditions for life .... but no fossils or any sign of life is found. Of course they will lie and say the conditions weren't really there. At first they will come out with stories about how the conditions seem to have been there but after a while and they find no history of biological activity of any kind ... the story will change. Scientists cannot abide any evidence countering the 'fact' of life having just sprung from the primordial soup as they are wont to say. Spontaneous generation. They can't explain it. They can't prove it. There is no evidence. But they believe it. Scholars that they are.
14 posted on 03/11/2004 12:02:09 AM PST by mercy
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