“You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well.”

The official NASA Phoenix site hasn’t revealed the results of the analysis of Martian soil by the wet chemistry laboratory yet but, according to an RTE report, the very preliminary findings are good flabbergasting. And, given that we know there is, specifically, water ice there.. Oops Meant to add, why the dichotomy on Mars? Adds MarsPhoenix twitter confirms “friendly” dirt.

“We basically have found what appears to be the requirements, the nutrients, to support life whether past present or future,” Sam Kounaves, the lead investigator for the wet chemistry laboratory, told journalists. “It is the type of soil you would probably have in your back yard, you know, alkaline. You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well. It is very exciting for us. We were all flabbergasted at the data we got back,” Kounaves added. The scientists would not go as far as saying they now believe that life, even mere microbes, definitively existed on Mars, saying the results were very preliminary and more analysis was needed. “There is nothing about the soil that would preclude life. In fact it seems very friendly…there is nothing about it that is toxic,” Kounaves said.

Adds It’s a treasure trove! – “We are awash in chemistry data”.Adds Interesting point about that dichotomy on Mars.

“The dichotomy is arguably the oldest feature on Mars,” Dr Aharonson explained. The feature arose more than four billion years ago, before the rest of the planet’s complex geological history was superimposed.”

This was about the same time that a much bigger object slammed into the Earth, throwing material into orbit around our infant planet. This material is thought to have coalesced to form the Moon.

Indeed, the coincidence in timing of the formation of our Moon and the Mars dichotomy is probably not coincidental.

“It happened probably right at the end of the formation of the four terrestrial planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars,” said Craig Agnor, a co-author on the Francis Nimmo study.

He told BBC News: “We think the planets formed out of a disc of rocks. As the rocks collide, you get bigger rocks and so on. Eventually, you end up with four planets and a lot of rocks – of various sizes.

“In terms of the process of the planets sweeping up the last bits of debris, this could have been one of the last big bits of debris.”

Shock waves from the impact would travel through the planet and disrupt the crust on the other side, causing changes in the magnetic field recorded there.

The predicted changes are consistent with observations of magnetic anomalies in the southern hemisphere, according to Dr Nimmo.