2000 Times the Earths Oceans Amount of Water Found at the Dawn of a Solar Birth
Previous
RANDOM
Redbull Stratos Replay Video
Next

Curiosity Rover Finds Mars Rocks Similar to Volcanic Earth Rocks

by William W. on October 11, 2012
NASA

This image shows where NASA‘s Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as “Jake Matijevic.” The red dots are where the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument zapped it with its laser on Sept. 21, 2012, and Sept. 24, 2012, which were the 45th and 48th sol, or Martian day of operations. The circular black and white images were taken by ChemCam to look for the pits produced by the laser. The purple circles indicate where the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer trained its view. This image was obtained by Curiosity’s Mast Camera on Sept. 22, 2012, or sol 46. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The first Martian rock NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached out to touch presents a more varied composition than expected from previous missions. The rock also resembles some unusual rocks from Earth’s interior.

The rover team used two instruments on Curiosity to study the chemical makeup of the football-size rock called “Jake Matijevic.” The results support some surprising recent measurements and provide an example of why identifying rocks’ composition is such a major emphasis of the mission. Rock compositions tell stories about unseen environments and planetary processes.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” said Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., who is a Curiosity co-investigator. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”
On Earth, rocks with composition like the Jake rock typically come from processes in the planet’s mantle beneath the crust, from crystallization of relatively water-rich magma at elevated pressure.

Jake was the first rock analyzed by the rover’s arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument and about the thirtieth rock examined by the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument. Two penny-size spots on Jake were analyzed Sept. 22 by the rover’s improved and faster version of earlier APXS devices on all previous Mars rovers, which have examined hundreds of rocks. That information has provided scientists a library of comparisons for what Curiosity sees.

“Jake is kind of an odd Martian rock,” said APXS Principal Investigator Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. “It’s high in elements consistent with the mineral feldspar, and low in magnesium and iron.”

ChemCam found unique compositions at each of 14 target points on the rock, hitting different mineral grains within it.
“ChemCam had been seeing compositions suggestive of feldspar since August, and we’re getting closer to confirming that now with APXS data, although there are additional tests to be done,” said ChemCam Principal Investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Examination of Jake included the first comparison on Mars between APXS results and results from checking the same rock with ChemCam, which shoots laser pulses from the top of the rover’s mast.

The wealth of information from the two instruments checking chemical elements in the same rock is just a preview. Curiosity also carries analytical laboratories inside the rover to provide other composition information about powder samples from rocks and soil. The mission is progressing toward getting the first soil sample into those analytical instruments during a “sol” or Martian day.

“Yestersol, we used Curiosity’s first perfectly scooped sample for cleaning the interior surfaces of our 150-micron sample-processing chambers. It’s our version of a Martian carwash,” said Chris Roumeliotis, lead turret rover planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Before proceeding, the team carefully studied the material for scooping at a sandy patch called “Rocknest,” where Curiosity is spending about three weeks.

“That first sample was perfect, just the right particle-size distribution,” said JPL’s Luther Beegle, Curiosity sampling-system scientist. “We had a lot of steps to be sure it was safe to go through with the scooping and cleaning.”

Following the work at Rocknest, the rover team plans to drive Curiosity about 100 yards eastward and select a rock in that area as the first target for using the drill.

During a two-year prime mission, researchers will use Curiosity’s 10 instruments to assess whether the study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the project and built Curiosity. For more about the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission, visit:

 http://www.nasa.gov/msl

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity

and

http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity

William W.
I am an amateur astronomer with a focus on astrophotography and deep space objects. I have 15+ years in the web publishing business and over 20 years as a space enthusiast. I enjoy reading and writing about the amazing discoveries of brilliant scientists and engineers.
 
READ MORE

NASA Awards SpaceX Launch of Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

 
READ MORE

NASA Rover Finds Active and Ancient Organic Chemistry on Mars

 
READ MORE

Venus Express goes gently into the night


 
READ MORE

NASA’s MAVEN Mission Identifies Links in Chain Leading to Atmospheric Loss

 
READ MORE

NASA Tests Software That May Help Increase Flight Efficiency, Decrease Aircraft Noise

 
READ MORE

SpaceX set to create 300 new US jobs


 
READ MORE

Lockheed Martin Wins Medium Lift Contract in Alaska

 
READ MORE

Arianespace’s upcoming Soyuz mission receives its “identity” at the Spaceport

 
READ MORE

U.S. Geological Survey releases highest-resolution geologic map of Mars


 
READ MORE

NASA All About That Space – All About That Bass Parody Music Video

 
READ MORE

Warm Gas Pours ‘Cold Water’ on Galaxy’s Star-Making

 
READ MORE

Scientists Warn That Cosmic Rays Will Threaten Future Deep-Space Astronaut Missions


 
READ MORE

New Horizons Pluto probe wakes up after 1,873 days in hybernation

 
READ MORE

NASAs new Mars space craft, Orion successfully completes first mission

 
READ MORE

Engineers have invented “touchable” 3d holograms


Load More
End of the line!
Fonts by Google Fonts. Icons by Fontello. Full Credits here »