Curiosity Digs Up Martian Soil For First Time
October 9, 2012

A Heaping Scoop Of Mars – Curiosity Rover Digs Up Its First Martian Soil Sample

[ Watch the Video: Curiosity's First Scoopful of Mars ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Curiosity dug up its first Martian soil over the weekend, collecting a scoopful of sand and powdery material at the "Rocknest" site.

NASA confirmed the success of the rover's digging, and said that imaging verified collection of the sample.

The collected material will be used for cleaning and interior surfaces of the rover's sample-handling mechanism, according to the space agency.

It said that the soil sample will be held and vibrated inside each chamber of the mechanism before the material is discarded.

Curiosity's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device located on the robotic arm includes the scoop and the mechanism for sieving and portioning samples of soil and powdered rock.

"The rover's ability to put scooped and sieved samples of soil into onboard laboratory instruments is an important part of the mission," NASA said in a press release. "Those instruments -- Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) -- will play crucial roles in evaluating whether the study area has ever had a favorable environment for microbial life."

The space agency said that the rover's capability to take powdered samples from rocks, using its drill, still hasn't been used for the first time.

Although it has plans to grab another sample of soil, NASA has stopped its operations so that scientists could analyze an image of a shiny unknown object recently taken.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that the object could be a piece of rover hardware. NASA has instructed Curiosity to acquire additional imaging of the object to help it assess possible impact to sampling activities.