Author Topic: How Curiosity Rover Will Taste Red Planet Rocks  (Read 661 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Buster's Uncle

  • Celebrating AC2's 10th Year- Little Terraformer That Could
  • Ascend
  • *
  • Posts: 47211
  • €446
  • View Inventory
  • Send /Gift
  • Because there are times when people just need a cute puppy  Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur  Someone thinks a Winrar is You!  
  • AC2 is my instrument, my heart, as I play my song.
  • Planet tales writer Smilie Artist Custom Faction Modder AC2 Wiki contributor Downloads Contributor
    • View Profile
    • My Custom Factions
    • Awards
How Curiosity Rover Will Taste Red Planet Rocks
« on: August 14, 2012, 05:41:13 PM »
How Curiosity Rover Will Taste Red Planet Rocks
By Elizabeth Howell, Contributor | – 5 hrs ago.. .

For NASA's Curiosity rover, newly arrived on Mars, digging into the menu of minerals available on the Red Planet will take a robotic arm, a sleeve full of soil and a NASA-made tuning fork coupled with X-rays.
Curiosity, the centerpiece of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, touched down in Mars' Gale Crater Aug. 5 PDT. NASA plans to use the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment to explore the chemical composition of this area and figure out how it was formed — with an eye out for signs that Mars once had conditions suitable for life.
"If we know the mineralogy (of an area), as opposed to just the chemistry, you can talk about the environmental conditions," Ashwin Vasavada, MSL's deputy project scientist, told
A typical CheMin analysis takes about 10 hours and will usually take place overnight, when the rover is otherwise at rest. [Gallery: 1st Mars Photos by Curiosity Rover]
Work will start in the coming weeks when the rover stretches out its five-jointed, seven-foot arm to sample a bit of Martian soil, then swallows it as the arm places the soil inside an inlet.
Bigger chunks are filtered out through a sieve, leaving a fine powder that falls into a button-size sleeve with a window on one side.
Curiosity will then shine a focused beam of X-rays through the soil.
"As (the rays) shine in the different crystals in the minerals, one photon at a time, the rays scatter out," Vasavada said.
Curiosity will measure these bent, scattered rays with charge-coupled devices (CCDs). These devices are sensitive to light and are commonly used on Earth in cameras and telescope imagers.
Their use in CheMin is quite different, Vasavada explained. The X-rays will shine on the CCD and produce a particular pattern due to the way the light was bent around the crystals.
Every type of mineral has a distinctive set of "rings" seen in X-rays, almost like a fingerprint. NASA, like any good lab, has access to a library of these mineral rings. According to Vasavada, the library is a similar concept to that of fingerprint libraries used by crime scene investigators.
"You search your fingerprint library for what minerals and what combinations of minerals match," Vasavada said. "It's the gold-standard way of understanding the mineralogy of a powdered sample."
NASA has used similar techniques on Mars before, but this time it has devised a way to greatly improve the accuracy of the analysis.
Each sample envelope is attached to a metal strut similar to a tuning fork. As the X-rays shine through the envelope, the strut will vibrate at 200 cycles a second to mix up the Martian soil. Shaking the sample increases the number of ways in which the crystals orient toward each other, improving the analysis.
The vibration also makes a noise: "It sounds like a mosquito when you do it," Vasavada said.
Some of the minerals that could show evidence of what NASA calls "biosignatures" — telltale signs of life — include silica, sulphates, carbonates and phosphates.
With each X-ray fingerprint, researchers can get a little closer to figuring out if Gale Crater once had conditions where life could have thrived.


* User

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length

Select language:

* Community poll

SMAC v.4 SMAX v.2 (or previous versions)
20 (7%)
XP Compatibility patch
9 (3%)
Gog version for Windows
86 (30%)
Scient (unofficial) patch
32 (11%)
Kyrub's latest patch
14 (4%)
Yitzi's latest patch
87 (30%)
AC for Mac
2 (0%)
AC for Linux
5 (1%)
Gog version for Mac
11 (3%)
No patch
15 (5%)
Total Members Voted: 281
AC2 Wiki Logo
-click pic for wik-

* Random quote

You ivory tower intellectuals must not lose touch with the world of industrial growth and hard currency. It is all very well and good to pursue these high-minded scientific theories, but research grants are expensive. You must justify your existence by providing not only knowledge but concrete and profitable applications as well.
~CEO Nwabudike Morgan 'The Ethics of Greed'

* Select your theme