Curiosity’s first rock sample target may have been found

Eric Abent - Jan 15, 2013, 6:04 pm CST
Curiosity’s first rock sample target may have been found

It’s time to check in with our old buddy Curiosity as it makes its way across the surface of Mars. NASA announced today that the rover may have found its first rock sample, which could provide clues about whether or not the planet could have at one time supported microbial life. We’re not sure yet if Curiosity will drill into this rock to pull out a sample – first it needs to make its way over to the rock to have a closer look.

At the moment, though, things look pretty promising. NASA says the rock has a number of features that are of interest, which include “veins, nodules, cross-bedded layering, a lustrous pebble embedded in sandstone, and possibly some holes in the ground.” These could all be evidence of water, so it’s no wonder Curiosity’s engineers have decided it could potentially make a good candidate for sampling.

If it’s determined that the rock is something we want to know more about, Curiosity will use its drill to collect a sample. It will analyze the sample to find out its mineral and chemical composition, which should hopefully give us more information about the planet’s history. “Drilling into a rock to collect a sample will be this mission’s most challenging activity since the landing. It has never been done on Mars,” Mars Science Laboratory project manager Richard Cook from NASA JPL said, adding that the team won’t be surprised if a couple of things don’t go exactly as planned while Curiosity is collecting its samples.

If everything plays out the way NASA is hoping, then we should hear that Curiosity has found its first drilling target in just a few days. After that, it shouldn’t be too long before we find out about the rock’s composition, but don’t expect NASA to share the data it finds right away – after all, the agency likes to make sure that it has everything right before it makes any kind of announcement. Keep it tuned here to SlashGear, and we’ll let you know if NASA shares any new information.

[via NASA]

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