Feeds

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

Aloha, potential microbial life-forms

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.