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Curiosity Rover’s First Rock Show on Mars

Sep 25, 2012 07:33 AM EDT
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NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

NASA' Curiosity rover picked up its first rock on Mars and completed testing its elemental composition.

The rover assessed the rock named 'Jake Matijevic' using its scientific instruments on its 46th day on the Martian soil. The rock was given the name in honor of the lead engineer of all NASA's Mars rovers, Jacob Matijevic, who passed away on Aug. 20, at the age of 64.

While the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) which is at the end of the 7-foot (2.1-meter) long robotic arm of the rover touched the rock to measure the elemental composition, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) was used so as to perform close up tests of the rock on Saturday and Sunday. Another scientific instrument called as Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) was also used to analyze the chemical composition of the rock using its laser pulses, according to a NASA report.

Data from both APXS and MAHLI instruments will be compared so as to cross-calibrate them. After wrapping up the work, the rover drove 138 feet (42 meters), the longest drive yet since it landed successfully on the Martian Gale crater on Aug. 5.

Curiosity is currently on its way to a site of NASA's interest known as Glenelg, where three different terrains intersect with each other. While one terrain of the site is lighter-toned, the other terrain is cratered than the current path that the Curiosity is using for its drive.

NASA scientists believe that the composition of rocks on the lighter-toned terrain will be different as it maintains daytime heat until night. The rover will also choose a rock sample after reaching Glenelg to study the elemental composition.

The car-sized instrument is on a two-year mission carrying ten scientific instruments to study the areas chosen in the Gale crater could have ever supported microbial life. The ultimate destination for rover will be a site known as Mount Sharp, where the sand composition is different suggested by its color. It will take at least a year for the rover to reach the base of Mount Sharp.

Check below the video of engneering animation showing the moves of NASA's Curiosity rover:

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