Space

Curiosity rover takes its first Martian soil samples

Curiosity rover takes its firs...
The first three bite marks of Curiosity's robotic arm (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The first three bite marks of Curiosity's robotic arm (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Engineering graphic of Curiosity's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Engineering graphic of Curiosity's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Internal chambers of the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Internal chambers of the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
A 3D image of Glenelg taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)
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A 3D image of Glenelg taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)
High-resolution image of the scuff mark made by Curiosity for taking soil samples (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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High-resolution image of the scuff mark made by Curiosity for taking soil samples (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Image of Curiosity's scoop showing particles too large for rover's labs, left over after vibrating (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Image of Curiosity's scoop showing particles too large for rover's labs, left over after vibrating (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Fine sand filtered through Curiosity's sieve as part of the decontamination exercise (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Fine sand filtered through Curiosity's sieve as part of the decontamination exercise (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Close-up image of the delivery tube after decontamination (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Close-up image of the delivery tube after decontamination (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Rock "Jake Matijevic" studied by Curiosity with areas probed indicated (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Rock "Jake Matijevic" studied by Curiosity with areas probed indicated (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Graphic representation of the chemical composition of the rock "Jake Matijevic" taken by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument over four Martian Days (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP)
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Graphic representation of the chemical composition of the rock "Jake Matijevic" taken by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument over four Martian Days (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP)
Graph showing the likely presence of the mineral pyroxene in the rock "Jake Matijevic" detected by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/SSI)
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Graph showing the likely presence of the mineral pyroxene in the rock "Jake Matijevic" detected by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/SSI)
Animated graphic showing the three dimensional spectra of the rock "Jake Matijevic" (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/UNM)
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Animated graphic showing the three dimensional spectra of the rock "Jake Matijevic" (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/IRAP/UNM)
Graph of elements in the rock "Jake Matijevic" as detected by the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Guelph/CSA)
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Graph of elements in the rock "Jake Matijevic" as detected by the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Guelph/CSA)
Panorama of the Rocknest location (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Panorama of the Rocknest location (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Image of scoop sample are showing that the bright objects were embedded in the soil rather than on top (Image: ASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Image of scoop sample are showing that the bright objects were embedded in the soil rather than on top (Image: ASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Color image of the piece of plastic found by Curiosity that may have been deposited during its landing (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Color image of the piece of plastic found by Curiosity that may have been deposited during its landing (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
The first three bite marks of Curiosity's robotic arm (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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The first three bite marks of Curiosity's robotic arm (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Curiosity's first soil sample on the observation tray (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Curiosity's first soil sample on the observation tray (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Bright particle seen in soil sample area later determined to be natural (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Bright particle seen in soil sample area later determined to be natural (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover took its first soil sample last week. The unmanned explorer used its robotic arm to scoop up a bit of the Martian surface, which it then sieved. A baby-Aspirin sized portion was subsequently deposited into its internal laboratory for analysis by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, to determine what minerals it contains.

"We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample," said Curiosity's 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."

Bright particle seen in soil sample area later determined to be natural (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Bright particle seen in soil sample area later determined to be natural (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This was the third sample scooped up by Curiosity, but the first to be analyzed. The first was used to scrub out the inside of the 4x4-sized rover’s laboratories to remove any terrestrial contaminants, and the second was discarded when bright particles were seen in it.

Fearing that the presence of these particles might be a repeat of an earlier encounter with plastic debris from Curiosity’s landing, mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California decided to investigate further. When images of the scoop area revealed that the particles were embedded in the ground rather than lying on the surface, mission control concluded that they were of Martian origin and allowed a third scoop of soil to be collected.

Image of Curiosity's scoop showing particles too large for rover's labs, left over after vibrating (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Image of Curiosity's scoop showing particles too large for rover's labs, left over after vibrating (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

"We plan to learn more both about the spacecraft material and about the smaller, bright particles," said Curiosity Project Manager Richard Cook of JPL. "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."

In other developments, Curiosity also finished investigations of a rock designated “Jake Matijevic.” Using its laser and Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, Curiosity was able to determine the mineral content of the rock, and scientists have concluded that it is an igneous rock made of mugearite – similar to well-known, but uncommon volcanic rocks found on Earth. By coincidence, mugearite is also found in Glenelg, Scotland, which gave its name to the Martian region that Curiosity is exploring.

The video below is a JPL news update highlighting the sampling mission.

Source: NASA

Curiosity Rover Report (Oct. 19, 2012) Mars Soil Sample Delivered

1 comment
JAT
I'm still not buying that the unknown object is plastic landing debris. Somebody or something has been there before and LEFT IT, deliberately! We are NOT alone!!! Oh, and if you think Oswald fired all four shots from the Book Depository Building, then I've got a bridge to sell you...