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Curiosity Rover Resumes Work With First Soil Scoop

Oct 11, 2012 08:36 AM EDT
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Curiosity rover resumes its work with first scoop of soil collected from the Martian soil.

The rover collected its first scoop of soil Sunday in an area dubbed as "Rocknest" for a sampling session. But the session was put on hold after mission scientists spotted a bright object on the Mars ground. Rover was stopped from taking any more samples of soil. It captured images of the object to help scientists identify it.

They found the object to be some sort of plastic wrapper material, such as a tube used around a wire, which might have fallen onto the rover when its huge robotic arm was lowered onto the Martian surface, reported Space.com.

Now, the mission scientists have decided to resume the sampling system with the first scoop of soil. The scoop of soil taken will be shaken well twice in a sample-processing chamber to clean internal surfaces of all residues originated from Earth. The first and the second scoop samples will be discarded.

But the soil samples taken for the third time will be placed on an observatory in order to allow the rover's mast camera to check the samples.  They will be delivered into the rover's chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) instrument to analyze the mineral and chemical composition of the soil.

The fourth scoop of soil will be sent to both CheMin and another instrument called sample analysis at Mars (SAM) in order to analyze the chemical elements in the soil that could have supported life in the past.

After spending few weeks at "Rocknest," the car-sized rover will head to Glenelg, where three different terrains intersect. Rover will spend about a month before heading to its ultimate destination - Mount Sharp. It is a site with different sand compositions that can be identified with its color.

It will take at least a year for the rover to reach Mount Sharp. On its way the rover will stop at various sites and perform scientific experiments.

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover landed on the red planet Aug. 5 as part of a two year mission. Its main goal is to review if Mars has or, ever had, environmental conditions needed to support microbial life.

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