October 19, 2012
First Curiosity Martian Soil Sample Delivered
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Curiosity has taken in its first Martian soil sample into its laboratory on board in search for extraterrestrial life on Mars.
The sample is being analyzed inside the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument to determine what minerals the soil sample contains.
"We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample," according to Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "This instrument gives us a more definitive mineral-identifying method than ever before used on Mars: X-ray diffraction. Confidently identifying minerals is important because minerals record the environmental conditions under which they form."
The sample is a small portion of the third scoop taken by Curiosity at the site named "Rocknest." NASA said the arm delivered the sample to Curiosity's CheMin on Wednesday.
The material was scooped up into sample-processing chambers to scrub internal surfaces of any residue carried from Earth back on Tuesday, according to the space agency.
NASA also released images taken after Curiosity collected its scoops, one of which included a "bright object" that halted the rover's efforts at its first soil analysis.
The bright object at first was believed to be part of the Curiosity rover itself, but a later analysis determined the material to be a native Martian material.
"We plan to learn more both about the spacecraft material and about the smaller, bright particles," said Curiosity Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena. "We will finish determining whether the spacecraft material warrants concern during future operations. The native Mars particles become fodder for the mission's scientific studies."