On October 11, NASA’s Curiosity rover snapped a new selfie showing itself off following the completion of what the space agency says was a ‘special’ chemistry experiment. The selfie was taken on Mars’ Sol 2,553 at the planet’s Glen Etive, a clay-bearing unit where Curiosity drilled a couple of holes into the ground. Visible behind the rover is the upper part of Mount Sharp and Vera Rubin Ridge.
On September 24, NASA’s rover conducted a special chemistry experiment that involved putting powdered samples from one of the nearby drill sites into a portable lab containing 74 cups where samples are tested. As the cups heat up samples, a tool called SAM detects the gases that are produced in order to help researchers shed light on Mars’ distant past.
Of those 74 cups, NASA says that nine are filled with solvents that make ‘wet chemistry’ experiments possible. Researchers have had to save these limited number of solvent-filled cups for times when conditions are close to perfect, meaning only one previous ‘wet’ experiment has taken place. That changed with the new test in late September.
The solvents make it possible for SAM to detect molecules that hint at the potential for life in Mars’ distant past. The clay-bearing units at Curiosity’s latest destination may reveal some organic compounds in the soil as a result of these experiments, but details are still forthcoming.
Because it takes a lot of time for SAM to crunch the details, the results of this wet chemistry experiment won’t be available until some time next year, according to NASA. In the meantime, Curiosity has used its robotic arm to snap a few dozen images, all of them stitched together to create a new large selfie.