Mars Rover Instrument Tastes Soil
November 14, 2012

NASA Curiosity Rover Gets Another Taste Of Martian Soil

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Curiosity got a taste of solids from the Martian surface on November 9th, when a pinch of fine sand and dust was deposited in the biggest instrument on the rover: the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM).

SAM is located inside the rover and examines the chemistry of samples it ingests, checking specifically for chemistry related to supporting life. The sample was delivered to an inlet port on the rover deck by Curiosity's robotic arm. For the next two days, SAM analyzed the sample using mass spectrometry, gas chromatography and laser spectrometry.

The sand and dust came from a patch of windblown material called "Rocknest." Rocknest provided a previous sample for mineralogical analysis by the CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy) instrument. Curiosity's robotic arm delivered a new sample from the same Rocknest scoop that fed SAM to CheMin. Before this sample, SAM has analyzed samples of the Martian atmosphere, but no solid materials.

"We received good data from this first solid sample," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We have a lot of data analysis to do, and we are planning to get additional samples of Rocknest material to add confidence about what we learn."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.