Curiosity Set to Scoop Sand Sample That Could Reveal Ancient Life
NASA’s Curiosity rover is getting ready to take its first scoop of Martian soil. The analysis of the soil sample will be one of the rover’s most crucial tasks, helping establish whether Gale Crater ever offered favorable conditions for life.
First, Curiosity started to prepare by using one of its wheels to scuff the soil to expose fresh material. Next, the rover will take two scoops of some soil, shake them thoroughly inside the sample-processing chambers to scrub the internal surfaces, then discard them. It will then scoop and shake a third measure of soil and place it in an observation tray for inspection by cameras mounted on the rover’s mast. Part of the third sample will be delivered to the mineral-identifying chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) instrument inside the rover; and a fourth scoopful will be used to provide samples to both CheMin and to the sample analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which identifies chemical ingredients.