Feeds

Curiosity probe tastes Mars soil: Dude, this reminds me of Hawaii

Aloha, potential microbial life-forms

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Science lab and nuclear truck Curiosity has tasted its first Martian soil and decided it's a bit like a piece of Hawaii.

The Mars rover's CheMin instrument analysed the minerals in its fistful of dust and found the composition is similar to the basaltic volcanic soil of the islands.

"We had many previous inferences and discussions about the mineralogy of Martian soil," David Blake, principal investigator for CheMin, said. "Our quantitative results provide refined and in some cases new identifications of the minerals in this first X-ray diffraction analysis on Mars."

Martian soil in Curiosity's robotic arm scoop

To test the soil, Curiosity scooped some up with its robotic arm and dumped it in the chemistry and mineral analysing instrument to get solid information on its mineralogical makeup.

Figuring out what the Red Planet is made of is an obvious method to fulfil the rover's prime objective - assessing whether microbial life has ever existed on Mars. The minerals tell boffins about the conditions under which they formed, helping identify past environmental conditions.

Chemical analysis also gives some information, but not as accurately as X-ray diffraction to assess mineralogical content. Diamond and graphite are both made up of carbon atoms, but their differing crystal structures result in two very different minerals.

Examining the Martian soil gives boffins an idea of the more recent history of the planet. Curiosity is also built to analyse rocks which are billions of years old to look further into the past. The first rock probed by the rover also showed similarity to rocks on volcanic islands like Hawaii and hinted at the possibility of flowing water on ancient Mars.

"So far, the materials Curiosity has analysed are consistent with our initial ideas of the deposits in Gale Crater recording a transition through time from a wet to dry environment. The ancient rocks, such as the conglomerates, suggest flowing water, while the minerals in the younger soil are consistent with limited interaction with water," said David Bish, CheMin co-investigator. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.