Feeds

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

Aloha, potential microbial life-forms

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.