Mars Rover Curiosity Eats First Rock Powder Sample
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has ingested portions of the first sample of gray rock powder collected from the interior of a Martian rock.
The rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments received small portions of the sample on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, respectively. The instruments have begun analyzing the rock powder, announced NASA.
"Data from the instruments have confirmed the deliveries," Curiosity Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.
CheMin and SAM will carry out a detailed analysis of the samples to find clues about the conditions under which the rock was formed.
The rock powder samples were collected from a flat, veiny rock called "John Klein". On Feb. 8 , Curiosity used a percussive drill mounted on its robotic arm to bore a 2.5-inch (6.4-centimeter) hole into the rock. Scientists were intrigued that the powder sample collected from the interior of the rock was gray in color, unlike the rusty reddish-orange color of other Martian rocks.
They believe the results from CheMin and SAM analysis might give clues about the color change. The gray-colored rock powder "may preserve some indication of what iron was doing in these samples without the effect of some later oxidative process that would've rusted the rocks into this orange color that is sort of typical of Mars," Joel Hurowitz, sampling system scientist for Curiosity at JPL, told reporters on Wednesday (Feb. 20), according to Space.com.
The rock powder samples were collected and then transferred into a scoop before getting delivered to the two onboard laboratories. Scientists believe the rock from which the sample powder was taken holds evidence about long-gone wet environments on Mars.