NASA's Curiosity Takes More Eye-Opening Photos of Mars

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2012-12-21 Print this article Print

Curiosity's "Rocknest" Workplace

The Mars rover documented itself in the context of its work site, an area called "Rocknest Wind Drift," on the 84th Martian day of its mission. The drift consists of sand trapped on the downwind side of a group of dark cobbles.


NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze Martian soil for the first time, and found it has a complex chemistry. Water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover. The specific soil sample came from a drift of windblown dust and sand called "Rocknest." The site lies in a relatively flat part of Gale Crater still miles away from the rover's main destination on the slope of a mountain called Mount Sharp. Curiosity's team selected Rocknest as the first scooping site because it has fine sand particles suited for scrubbing interior surfaces of the arm's sample-handling chambers. The rover's laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds—carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. In addition to conducting soil-sample tests, the rover also snapped some truly incredible shots of the Martian landscape, including two panoramas eWEEK has included here. Truly out of this world stuff, folks.


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