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This week in science: planet of the orcs

Humans may begin colonizing Mars in the next decade or two. And images sent back from orbiting and roving spacecraft show a familiar landscape. Arid valleys and plains, dotted with mesas, often cut with flash-flood gulches. It looks a lot like the high desert southwest in the US. But Mars is not Earth, the similarities conceal chemistry and conditions that aren’t just alien, they’re lethal: It turns out that these perchlorates are actually highly toxic to life when bathed in UV radiation that pummels Mars.
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