The Mars Curiosity rover tastes the first sample in a "clay unit": NASA | news from the world



The NASA Curiosity rover has tasted its first sample of a Martian region called the "clay-based unit" of Mount Sharp, the US space agency said.

Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed "Aberlady" on April 6 – the 2370th Martian mission day – and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy lab on Wednesday, NASA said in a statement.

The rover drill easily ruminated the rock, unlike some of the toughest targets he faced near Vera Rubin Ridge.

In fact, it was so versatile that the drill did not need to use its percussion technique, which is useful for hanging harder rock samples.

This was the first sample of the mission obtained using only the rotation of the trephine.

"Curiosity has been on the road for almost seven years," said Jim Erickson, Curiosity Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, USA.

"Finally, drilling in the clay unit is an important step in our journey to Mount Sharp," Erickson said.

Scientists want to analyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they usually form in the water.

The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected a powerful clay "signal" here long before Curiosity landed in 2012.

Identifying the source of this signal could help the scientific team understand if a wetter layer of Mars weather was shaping this layer of Mount Sharp, the 5-km-high Curiosity Mountain was climbing.

Curiosity has discovered clay minerals in mudstones throughout its course. These mudstones formed when river sediments settled in ancient lakes about 3.5 billion years ago. As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes finally dried up.

First publication:
April 13, 2019 5:23 PM IST


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