Mars Curiosity rover conducts first soil sample test, finds water, sulfur and chlorine

NASA has announced today that the Curiosity rover currently putzing around on Mars has conducted its first, extensive test that analyzed soil samples that the rover dug up previously. The results found a "complex chemistry" in the soil. Water, sulfur and chlorine-containing substances were discovered, along with a few other ingredients.

The soil sample was dug up at a site called "Rocknest" that lies in a relatively flat part of Gale Crater, but still miles away from the rover's main destination on the slope of a mountain called Mount Sharp. NASA selected Rocknest as the first scooping site because it has fine sand particles that are well-suited for "scrubbing interior surfaces of the arm's sample-handling chambers."

The rover's examination of the dirt samples found that the composition is made up of about "half common volcanic minerals and half non-crystalline materials." Furthermore, the water that was discovered during testing doesn't mean that the sample was wet by any means. Water molecules were simply bound to grains of sand, and it's not unusual, but the quantity that was discovered was higher than anticipated.

Of course, nothing is final yet. NASA says that this is just the beginning of sampling soil on Mars, and the team plans to obviously conduct tons of further tests over the next two years in order to see if Mars once was inhabited with life forms, but the discovery of water molecules is definitely a good sign, and is a step forward for the Mars Curiosity team.