NASA scientists say they are "flabbergasted" to find that soil on Mars appears rich enough to grow such Earth-bound plants as asparagus.

U.S. space researchers revealed the results of their first "wet" chemical analysis of Martian dirt Thursday and said it is not as acidic as expected, appearing to have the requirements and nutrients to support life.

The sample was taken two weeks ago by the Mars Lander Phoenix, then heated to over 538 degrees Celsius.  At that point, the sample released water vapor.  The scientists said the the dirt is similar to that in a typical backyard.

As exciting as the scientists find the discovery, they point out that they can study only the chemistry of Mars, not whether anything has ever lived there.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.