NASA's Mars rover Curiosity took its fourth scoop of Martian soil over the weekend and yesterday was issued commands to place a bit of the sample into the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. Another sieved portion of the scoop was to be placed into Curiosity's observation tray.
The rest of the sample will be vibrated in Curiosity's sample processing chambers to scrub its internal surfaces. This is a cleaning process that was also performed with the rover's first and second scoops. A later scoop will be the first to be placed into Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to determine its chemical composition.
Last week, Curiosity's third scoop became the first delivered to the CheMin instrument. That instrument is to determine the mineral composition of the soil the rover has been sampling.
For over two weeks now, Curiosity has been stationed on a dusty patch of soil NASA has dubbed "Rocknest." In addition to testing and implementing its soil-sampling abilities, the rover has been using its other on-board tools to survey the surrounding area. It is taking photos of the landscape using its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mast Camera (Mastcam), while also monitoring Martian environmental conditions with its Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), and Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instruments.
The photo above shows the result of 30 laser blasts Curiosity fired into a nearby drift of Martian sand (named "Crestaurum" by NASA) over the weekend. It then used its spectrometers to examine the chemical elements present in the drift. The rover fired its laser over a distance of 8 feet, 10 inches and the pit created is about one-eighth of an inch across.
(Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/IRAP/LPGN/CNRS)