A brand new selfie taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is breathtaking, nevertheless it’s particularly significant for the mission’s workforce: stitched collectively from 57 particular person photos taken by a digital camera on the top of Curiosity’s robotic arm, the panorama additionally commemorates solely the second time the rover has carried out a particular chemistry experiment.
The selfie was taken on Oct. 11, 2019 (Sol 2,553) in a location named “Glen Etive” (pronounced “glen EH-tiv”), which is a part of the “clay-bearing unit,” a area the workforce has eagerly awaited reaching since earlier than Curiosity launched. Seen within the left foreground are two holes Curiosity drilled named “Glen Etive 1” (proper) and “Glen Etive 2” (left) by the science workforce. The rover can analyze the chemical composition of rock samples by powderizing them with the drill, then dropping the samples into a transportable lab in its stomach referred to as Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM).
About 984 ft (300 meters) behind the rover is Vera Rubin Ridge, which Curiosity departed practically a 12 months in the past. Past the ridge, you’ll be able to see the ground of Gale Crater and the crater’s northern rim. Curiosity has been ascending Mount Sharp, a Three-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain contained in the crater.
The particular chemistry experiment occurred on Sept. 24, 2019, after the rover positioned the powderized pattern from Glen Etive 2 into SAM. The moveable lab accommodates 74 small cups used for testing samples. A lot of the cups operate as miniature ovens that warmth the samples; SAM then “sniffs” the gases that bake off, on the lookout for chemical compounds that maintain clues in regards to the Martian surroundings billions of years in the past, when the planet was friendlier to microbial life.
However 9 of SAM’s 74 cups are crammed with solvents the rover can use for particular “moist chemistry” experiments. These chemical compounds make it simpler for SAM to detect sure carbon-based molecules vital to the formation of life, referred to as natural compounds.
As a result of there is a restricted variety of wet-chemistry cups, the science workforce has been saving them for simply the proper circumstances. In actual fact, the experiment at Glen Etive is simply the second time Curiosity has carried out moist chemistry since touching down on Mars in August 2012.
“We have been keen to search out an space that might be compelling sufficient to do moist chemistry,” mentioned SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Area Flight Heart in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Now that we’re within the clay-bearing unit, we have lastly received it.”
Clay-based rocks are good at preserving chemical compounds, which break down over time and when bombarded by radiation from house and the Solar. The science workforce is intrigued to see which natural compounds, if any, have been preserved within the rocks at Glen Etive. Understanding how this space fashioned will give them a greater thought of how the Martian local weather was altering billions of years in the past.
Whereas this marks Curiosity’s second wet-chemistry experiment, it’s the rover’s first on a drilled pattern. In December 2016, when Curiosity’s drill malfunctioned, the rover nonetheless had a little bit of sand that had been scooped up in a spot referred to as “Ogunquit Seaside.” It wasn’t a drilled pattern, however the workforce wasn’t certain whether or not they’d get the drill working and have the ability to carry out moist chemistry sooner or later. So that they delivered the Ogunquit Seaside sand into considered one of SAM’s moist chemistry cups since there was nonetheless science to be gained.
Scientists think about Glen Etive a strategic location that may reveal extra about how the clay-bearing unit fashioned. They constructed upon the dear gown rehearsal at Ogunquit Seaside to make changes that improved the latest experiment.
The outcomes might be recognized subsequent 12 months. “SAM’s knowledge is extraordinarily advanced and takes time to interpret,” Mahaffy mentioned. “However we’re all desperate to see what we will study from this new location, Glen Etive.”
The person photos on this selfie had been taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a digital camera on the top of the rover’s robotic arm. The pictures are stitched collectively right into a panorama; the robotic arm is not seen within the components of the photographs used within the composite.
MAHLI was constructed by Malin Area Science Techniques in San Diego. The SAM instrument suite was constructed at Goddard Area Flight Heart with important parts supplied by business, college, and nationwide and worldwide NASA companions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Venture for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL designed and constructed the challenge’s Curiosity rover.