News / Science & Technology

Unusual Mars Rock Surprises Rover Scientists

This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as
This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as "Jake Matijevic." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Rosanne Skirble
The Mars rover Curiosity, now 63 days into its two-year exploration of the red planet, has analyzed a football-sized rock that NASA scientists say has some surprisingly Earth-like qualities.

Curiosity's engineers on Earth put the drilling and sampling tools on the rover's robotic arm to full use this week as they assessed the makeup of the pyramid-shaped rock. The sample is named Jake Matijevic, in honor of a senior engineer on the Curiosity team who passed away this summer.  Co-investigator Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology says the football-size rock is similar to a kind of igneous, or volcanic rock found on Earth.

"The composition of Jake Matijevic is a very close match to highly crystalized or fractionated magmas that occur on particular places on earth," said Stolper.


Stolper says it is difficult to conclude from this one rock whether it formed the same way such rocks formed on Earth. But he says further studies could answer that question.  

Scientists were pleased with the data they gathered from two new instruments on Curiosity - the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the Chemistry and Camera Instrument, called ChemCam, which shoots rock-busting laser pulses from the top of the rover’s mast.  

  • This image shows the wall of a scuff mark NASA's Curiosity made in a windblown ripple of Martian sand with its wheel.
  • This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as "Jake Matijevic." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
  • This image shows fine sand from Mars that was filtered by NASA's Curiosity rover as part of its first "decontamination" exercise, October 10, 2012.
  • The image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater in the distance. The image shown here has been rotated to correct for that tilt, so that the sky is up and the ground is down.
  • The scoop on NASA's Curiosity rover shows the larger soil particles that were too big to filter through a sample-processing sieve that is porous only to particles less than 150 microns across, October 10, 2012.
  • The Mars Curiosity rover's robotic arm takes aim at Mount Sharp in a mosaic that combines navigation-camera imagery from Sols 2, 12 and 14 (Aug. 8, 18 and 20). The shadow of the rover's camera mast is visible in the center foreground.
  • A penny that is used by Curiosity to calibrate its Mars Hand Lens Imager camera. The penny is covered in Martian dust, September 9, 2012.
  • This view of the lower front and underbelly of Curiosity combines nine images taken on September 9, 2012.
  • This photo, taken by the Curiosity rover, shows the layered geology of Mars.
  • This view of three of Curiosity's wheels combines two images taken on September 9, 2012.

NASA scientists say the information from the two instruments is just a preview of things to come.  The rover also carries tools to gather and analyze soil samples.  Actually, the first samples will be used to clean off a protective film of oil - possibly bearing traces of terrestrial dust -  left on the instruments when they were assembled on Earth.  Chris Roumeliotis,  with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says it's rather like a Martian car-wash.

“The decontamination activity is extremely important because we don’t want our instruments spooked by any terrestrial contamination.  And once we clean everything we will be up and running with full capability," said Roumeliotis.

After the decontamination, the rover will be driven about 90 meters toward another rock in the Gale Crater area that's been selected as the first target for Curiosity's drill.

Over the rover's two-year mission, researchers will be studying whether this region of Mars ever had - or might still have -  conditions that could support life.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs