Scientists debate the meaning of mineral found on Mars Arizona Daily Star

The unanticipated discovery of a mineral in Mars’ arctic soil doesn’t rule out the possibility that the red planet could support life, scientists with the Phoenix lander said today.
While cautioning that the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing agent found in rocket fuel, still had to be confirmed by more experiments, scientists with the UA-led Phoenix Mars Mission rejected speculation that the mineral’s presence killed the possibility of life on the planet.
“These compounds are quite stable and don’t destroy organic compounds,” said Peter Smith, the UA’s lead scientist for the mission. “This is an important piece in the puzzle and it is neither good nor bad for life.” While perchlorate can be hazardous to some life forms on Earth, others use the molecules for life, including in remote arid desert regions.
“The interesting thing is perchlorate is a relatively inert oxidant,” said Richard Quinn, a mission scientist. “There are some microbes that use it as an energy source.”