NASA Mars Curiosity Rover Prepares To Study Martian Soil


This patch of windblown sand and dust downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the “Rocknest” site. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover is in a position on Mars where scientists and engineers can begin preparing the rover to take its first scoop of soil for analysis.

Curiosity is the centerpiece of the two-year Mars Science Laboratory mission. The rover’s ability to put soil samples into analytical instruments is central to assessing whether its present location on Mars, called Gale Crater, ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Mineral analysis can reveal past environmental conditions. Chemical analysis can check for ingredients necessary for life.

“We now have reached an important phase that will get the first solid samples into the analytical instruments in about two weeks,” said Mission Manager Michael Watkins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Curiosity has been so well-behaved that we have made great progress during the first two months of the mission.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-312#4

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