The Nasa’s Mars Curiosity Rover has analyzed its first scoop on the red planet, and results are promissing. The Curiosity Rover has found water molecules in “higher amounts than anticipated”, according to an announcement from the JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] today.
The water found attached to sand or other particles is “not unusual,” according to JPL, but the quantities are surprising as the team looks for organic compounds in Mars’ soil.
Previously we’ve reported : “Researchers have allegedly discovered something on Mars that’s utterly “earthshaking.” As in, this will change science and our perception of the Red Planet forever. What could it be? The Mars Science Lab isn’t sharing the big news just yet, because it wants to double and triple verify its results. Once that’s done, well, we’re in for something big.”
Currently, the Mars rover is stationed at “Rocknest,” which was chosen for its dusty conditions. The JPL team felt the dirt here could be used to clean out Curiosity’s arm, which scoops up material and delivers it to analysis tools inside its body. The arm needed to be cleaned of any Earth materials that could get mixed in with the Marian samples.
This was the first time Curiosity used all of its instruments in analyzing the regolith, or Martian soil. This included its Sample Analysis at Mars tool (SAM), the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) and others. Indeed, it cooked some of the dirt in a tiny oven inside its body.
The regolith here revealed volcanic-like properties similar to Hawaii as well as glass particles. Some of the dirt further revealed carbon-based a chlorine and oxygen compound called perchlorate. This was first discovered by Nasa’s Pheonix Lander. “One-carbon organics” were also created when dirt was heated inside the tiny oven, meaning that we could be one-step closer to understanding how life could form on Mars. We’re still a long way off, however, because Nasa says the chemical reactions that formed the carbon may have been the product of an Earthly object mixing in with the regolith.
After Curiosity is done analyzing the martian dirty here, it will head off toward its ultimate destination Mount Sharp. Its mission is to determine whether or not the Gale Crater ever had the environment that could have sustained microorganisms.
Images courtesy of NASA JPL