Mars rover 'tasting' sample of solid soil

Nov. 13, 2012 at 6:54 PM

PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 13 (UPI) -- NASA says analysis is under way on the first solid martian soil sample deposited into the biggest instrument on the space agency's Mars rover Curiosity.

Analysis is ongoing of a pinch of fine sand and dust delivered to an inlet port of the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument Nov. 9, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Tuesday.

SAM has been using mass spectrometry, gas chromatography and laser spectrometry to analyze the sample, checking particularly for chemistry relevant to whether an environment can support life, NASA scientists said.

The sample was gathered at the site dubbed "Rocknest."

"We received good data from this first solid sample," SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said. "We have a lot of data analysis to do, and we are planning to get additional samples of Rocknest material to add confidence about what we learn."

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