Mars Rover Curiousity has ingested its first soil sample after a couple of delays as shiny particles were spotted near the Rover.
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has ingested its first solid sample into an analytical instrument inside the rover, a capability at the core of the two-year mission.
The rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument is analyzing this sample to determine what minerals it contains. The sample is a sieved portion from the third scoop collected by Curiosity as a windblown patch of dusty sand called “Rocknest.” The rover’s robotic arm delivered the sample to CheMin’s opened inlet funnel on the rover’s deck on Oct. 17.
In the preceding days Curiosity had used Martian soil to scrub the inside of its analytical equipment to remove any contaminating material left from Earth.
Various small bits of light-toned material on the ground at Rocknest have affected the rover’s activities in the past several days. One piece about half an inch (1.3 centimeters) long was noticed on Oct. 7. The rover team postponed use of the robotic arm for two days while investigating this object, and assessed it to be debris from the spacecraft.
Images taken after Curiosity collected its second scoop of Rocknest material on Oct. 12 showed smaller bits of light-toned material in the hole dug by the scooping action. This led to discarding that scoopful rather than using it to scrub the processing mechanisms. Scientists assess these smaller, bright particles to be native Martian material, not from the spacecraft.