Feeds

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

Aloha, potential microbial life-forms

The Power of One Infographic

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. ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Man FOUND ON MOON denies lunar alien interface
'The UFO people were very very angry with me' Buzz Aldrin tells Reddit
Would it be BAD if the Amazon rainforest was all FARMS? Well it WAS, once
Used to be all fields round here: Jungle tribesman saying
Boeing to start work on most powerful rocket ... EVER!
NASA okays start of Space Launch System after design review
'BIGGEST BIRD EVER': 21-foot ripsaw-beaked flying HORROR
Fossil avian cruised above sea like toothy ekranoplan
Help us out readers: How would you sniff and store network traffic?
Phase two of our deep desert project needs your wisdom
Boffins urge European Commission to reboot electric brain project
Billion-Euro simulated mind project criticised for narrow thinking
Going up: Fancy a virtual flight to 30km above the PLANET?
Space boffin rattles tin for immersive Oculus Rift experience
In space no one can hear you scream, but Voyager 1 can hear A ROAR
Boffins now very, very, sure craft is in interstellar space, and it's picking up 'sounds'
NIST shows off one-way photon-passing metamaterial
A light take on a diode could be just the thing for photonic networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
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.
The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem
Only the Power of One delivers leading infrastructure convergence, availability and scalability with federation, and agility through data center automation.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.