I already reported this week that the NASA Phoenix vehicle discovered water on Mars. But now it appears that the robotic lander has also confirmed the presence of a chemical known as Perchlorates.
Perchlorates are the salts derived from perchloric acid (HClO4). They occur both naturally and through manufacturing. […] They are also used as an oxidizer in rocket fuel and explosives and can be found in airbags, fireworks, and Chilean fertilizers. […] Lithium perchlorate, which decomposes exothermically to give oxygen, is used in oxygen “candles” on spacecraft, submarines and in other esoteric situations where a reliable backup or supplementary oxygen supply is needed. Most perchlorate salts are soluble in water.
In other words, the perchlorates in the Martian ground can be transformed into oxygen! And it’s a good — although toxic — fertilizer for green vegetables.