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Waspie_Dwarf

Curiosity Fully Analyzes First Soil Samples

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NASA Mars Rover Fully Analyzes First Soil Samples

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This is a view of the third (left) and fourth (right) trenches made by the 1.6-inch-wide (4-centimeter-wide) scoop on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in October 2012. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS › Full image and caption › Latest images › Curiosity gallery › Curiosity videos

PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found a complex chemistry within the Martian soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.

Detection of the substances during this early phase of the mission demonstrates the laboratory's capability to analyze diverse soil and rock samples over the next two years. Scientists also have been verifying the capabilities of the rover's instruments.

Curiosity is the first Mars rover able to scoop soil into analytical instruments. The specific soil sample came from a drift of windblown dust and sand called "Rocknest." The site lies in a relatively flat part of Gale Crater still miles away from the rover's main destination on the slope of a mountain called Mount Sharp. The rover's laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.

"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Curiosity's APXS instrument and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's arm confirmed Rocknest has chemical-element composition and textural appearance similar to sites visited by earlier NASA Mars rovers Pathfinder, Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity's team selected Rocknest as the first scooping site because it has fine sand particles suited for scrubbing interior surfaces of the arm's sample-handling chambers. Sand was vibrated inside the chambers to remove residue from Earth. MAHLI close-up images of Rocknest show a dust-coated crust one or two sand grains thick, covering dark, finer sand.

"Active drifts on Mars look darker on the surface," said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett, of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "This is an older drift that has had time to be inactive, letting the crust form and dust accumulate on it."

CheMin's examination of Rocknest samples found the composition is about half common volcanic minerals and half non-crystalline materials such as glass. SAM added information about ingredients present in much lower concentrations and about ratios of isotopes. Isotopes are different forms of the same element and can provide clues about environmental changes. The water seen by SAM does not mean the drift was wet. Water molecules bound to grains of sand or dust are not unusual, but the quantity seen was higher than anticipated.

SAM tentatively identified the oxygen and chlorine compound perchlorate. This is a reactive chemical previously found in arctic Martian soil by NASA's Phoenix Lander. Reactions with other chemicals heated in SAM formed chlorinated methane compounds -- one-carbon organics that were detected by the instrument. The chlorine is of Martian origin, but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carried by Curiosity and detected by SAM's high sensitivity design.

"We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp."

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, a division of Caltech, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and built Curiosity.

For more information about Curiosity and other Mars missions, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Dwayne Brown Headquarters, Washington

202-358-1726

dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

Guy Webster 818-354-6278

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

Nancy Neal Jones

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

301-286-0039

nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

2012-380

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History will have to be re-written due to this discovery!

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""We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md."

So pretty much as much a damp squid as one would expect. I suppose the History book publishers will be breathing a sigh of relief that they won't have to spend lots of money having them all re-printed, at least.

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Yep, its certainly "Earthshaking"

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Well what do people expect? NASA have been downplaying this for weeks and stating that there is no historic breakthrough yet. Then when they don't announce the historic breakthrough they said didn't exist we have people getting upset about it.

If you want instant gratification in the field of Martians may I suggest reading a science fiction novel.

If you want to live in the real world let the scientists do their job. This is a mission which is probably going to last a decade, to expect major breakthroughs in the first few weeks is just unrealistic.

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Who started that "history books" rumor anyway..... do you know, Waspie?

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Who started that "history books" rumor anyway..... do you know, Waspie?

Dr. John Grotzinger, head of the Curiosity rover team, started it when he remarked, spontaneously, to an interviewer that the data coming in at the time of the interview could, if it proved out, be 'one for the history books'. He says he meant that he was very pleased that Curiosity had returned consistent results to three tests, which indicated that it was working as it was intended to. He reports that he was surprised that people misinterpreted this to mean that something momentous had been discovered. Well, I'm surprised that he was surprised.

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So pretty much as much a damp squid as one would expect. I suppose the History book publishers will be breathing a sigh of relief that they won't have to spend lots of money having them all re-printed, at least.

As said, it's a long mission; what more do people want.

Also:

damp squib:

damp squid: a squid that is wet. By extension, surely something wholly unremarkable :P

Edited by Setton

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Dr. John Grotzinger, head of the Curiosity rover team, started it when he remarked, spontaneously, to an interviewer that the data coming in at the time of the interview could, if it proved out, be 'one for the history books'. He says he meant that he was very pleased that Curiosity had returned consistent results to three tests, which indicated that it was working as it was intended to. He reports that he was surprised that people misinterpreted this to mean that something momentous had been discovered. Well, I'm surprised that he was surprised.

Thanks for that, bison..... I guess people like Dr Grotzinger should be more careful in their choise of words. You never know who might be listening. :P

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Waspie was that you starting this thread? Well Its happens to the best of us !

THe Good news Is that theres no place on Mars that`s got a For Sale sign already on it ! :tu:

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In fairness to Dr. Grotzinger, he has said repeatedly that he now realizes he will have to be more careful in what he says. Everyone is entitled to a mistake once in a while. Curiosity may very well find something that everyone can agree is 'one for the history books', eventually.

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Yep, its certainly "Earthshaking"

Its only the conspiracy people who have been talking this up and taking peoples words out of context as usual

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