News / Science & Technology

Curiosity Collects Gray Innards of Red Planet's Rock

This image from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover's drill. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
This image from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover's drill. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Suzanne Presto
The U.S. space agency confirmed Wednesday that the Mars rover Curiosity has collected the first sample from inside a rock on Mars. NASA engineers received images from Mars Wednesday showing the powdered-rock sample in the rover's scoop.  

Seeing Gray on the Red Planet

The Mars rover Curiosity has successfully bored into and collected the innards of a rock on the Red Planet, yielding about a tablespoon of gray powder that the rover will soon analyze.   

Joel Hurowitz of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California told reporters the sample is not the red color typically associated with the Martian surface.

"It's pretty exciting to us that you just sort of brush beneath this surface veneer, and the rocks are a completely different color," said Hurowitz.  "We're sort of seeing a new coloration for Mars here, and it's an exciting one to us."  

A rusty orange color is often associated with oxidized iron.  NASA scientists say oxidation destroys organic compounds, so the gray shade of the powdered rock could indicate organic compounds are better preserved.

Unlocking a Time Capsule

Louise Jandura, the sample system chief engineer for Curiosity, has been working on the project for nearly eight years.  During the NASA teleconference, she described Curiosity's achievements as historic for the mission, the space program and the United States.   

"This is the first time any robot, fixed or mobile, has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars," Jandura said.  "In fact, this is the first time any rover has drilled into a rock to collect a sample anywhere but on Earth."   

The Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were outfitted with tools to grind the surface of rocks, but Jandura emphasized that Curiosity's drill is a significant advancement.  

"It allows us to go beyond the surface layer of the rock, unlocking a kind of time capsule of evidence about the state of Mars, going back three or four billion years," she said.  

Mission on Mars

The sample comes from a fine-grained, veiny sedimentary rock that was chosen because it may hold evidence of wet environmental conditions long ago.

In the coming days, Curiosity will sieve the powdered rock sample and deliver portions to the rover's scientific instruments.

Curiosity landed on Mars in August on a mission to investigate whether the planet ever offered an environment that could have supported microbial life.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid