Mars Curiosity rover has analyzed Martian soil for the first time, and
found a complex chemistry within the soil, US space agency NASA said.
and sulphur and chlorine-containing substances, among other
ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an
analytical laboratory inside the rover, NASA said in a statement Monday.
is the first Mars rover able to scoop soil into analytical instruments.
The specific soil sample came from a drift of windblown dust and sand
called "Rocknest". The site lies in a relatively flat part of Gale
Crater still miles away from the rover's main destination on the slope
of a mountain called Mount Sharp, reported Xinhua.
laboratory includes the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and the
Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. SAM used three methods to
analyze gases given off from the dusty sand when it was heated in a tiny
oven. One class of substances SAM checks for is organic compounds
carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life.
have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we
will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," said SAM
principal investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight
CheMin's examination of Rocknest samples found the
composition is about half common volcanic minerals and half
non-crystalline materials such as glass. SAM added information about
ingredients present in much lower concentrations and about ratios of
isotopes, which are different forms of the same element and can provide
clues about environmental changes.
Curiosity, loaded with the
most-sophisticated instruments ever used to explore another world,
touched down on the Red Planet Aug 6.
During the next two years,
it will use its 10 instruments to investigate whether conditions have
been favourable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks
about possible past life.