Mars Rover Curiosity Analyzes Rock Powder


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NASA this week announced that Mars rover Curiosity has successfully placed two small samples of rock powder into its "compact laboratories" for analysis.

"Data from the instruments have confirmed the deliveries," said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity Mission Manager oat NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The rock powder comes from the inside of a rock on Mars - the first sample of its kind to be collected. The powder was taken from a small hole that Curiosity drilled in a rock earlier this month. Last week NASA researchers were able to confirm that the rover had actually collected the powder.

The powder had now been placed into Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments. The CheMin instrument will examine the sample's mineral composition, while the SAM instrument will determine its chemical composition. The analyses will take place over "the coming days and weeks."

Both instruments were tested in late 2012 as Curiosity took several scoops of Martian soil while exploring the sandy "Rocknest" area.

The testing of the rover's hammering drill the successful rock powder sample gathering were described at the time to be "the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August." Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) researchers at JPL have now declared Curiosity to be "fully operational."

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)