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Bright Object Halts Curiosity’s Soil Sampling

Oct 09, 2012 08:13 AM EDT

NASA's Curiosity rover collected its first scoop of soil from the Martian surface Sunday.

But the soil sampling session was put on hold after NASA officials spotted a bright object on the ground. Officials suspect that it could be a plastic that belongs to rover. They stopped Curiosity from taking any more scoops of soil Monday. Instead, the rover captured images of the bright object to help scientists in identifying it, said NASA.

A message was posted on Curiosity's twitter account saying, "Team spotted bright object on ground near me-possibly a piece of rover hardware? Gathering more data [info]."

Meanwhile, NASA posted a video showing the rover collecting soil samples using the scoop on its robotic arm. The video clip shows the Martian soil in the scoop being vibrated to avoid overfill. The clip also shows 256 frames taken from Curiosity's Mast Camera.

Taking soil samples is a significant step to detect whether the environment conditions on Mars are favorable for life. The rover is currently located in an area called Rocknest to collect soil samples for analysis. It will perform mineral analysis to check past environmental conditions and chemical analysis to find if the soil samples have chemical elements supporting microbial life.

Curiosity, which landed successfully Aug.5 on the Martian soil, is on a two-year mission to find if conditions on Mars could have supported microbial life in the past. The car-sized rover is currently on a trip to Glenelg, a site where three different terrains intersect.

After spending more time at the site, the rover will head to its ultimate destination - Mount Sharp on Gale Crater. The sand composition on Mount Sharp is different that can be identified based on their color. It will take at least a year for Curiosity to reach Mount Sharp.

The rover has already found an ancient streambed giving evidence of the presence of environmental conditions that could have supported microbial life.

Check below the video of Curiosity's first scoopful of Mars:

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