Geologist Chris McKay, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) investigator, visited UCT on 4 November to give students and staff the results of the Phoenix mission to Mars.
NASA expected, said McKay, to find the surface red and cold, with rocks, dirt, ice-table and salt. But they were surprised to discover a complete dry soil, a flat ice-table and perchlorate, a highly reactive salt found naturally on Earth and used in products such as fertiliser, fireworks and rocket fuel.
Scientists are one step closer to considering that life on Mars is possible in a wet and cold Martian world, said McKay.
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