Curiosity eats first dirt on Mars

2012-10-19 09:01
Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity has tasted Martian dirt. (Nasa, JPL-Caltech, MSSS, AP)

Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity has tasted Martian dirt. (Nasa, JPL-Caltech, MSSS, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity tasted Martian dirt for the first time on Thursday, testing equipment needed to assess if the planet most like Earth in the solar system has or ever had the ingredients for microbial life.

The sampling of about a baby aspirin's worth of Martian sand was slightly delayed while scientists puzzled over unusual brightly coloured flecks in the hole carved out by Curiosity's scoop.

Initially, the team believed the bright flecks were shed by the rover, similar to bits of plastic debris discovered last week.

"The science team started to classify these sort of differently, calling them 'schmutz'," Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters in a conference call.

"We had a lot of fun with that, labelling them and comparing, but in the end it turns out we really feel this is a different sort of particle," he said.


While not completely ruling out the chance that the flecks are rover debris, most of the team now believes they are naturally occurring, perhaps a mineral that was fractured by the rover scoop.

To be on the safe side, scientists commanded Curiosity to dump that sample and collect sand from another site for processing in the onboard laboratory. The aim is to get an ingredient list of minerals in the Martian soil.

"We got to believing there were things around us and began to look at everything through that lens," said mission manager Richard Cook, with Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"We definitely are more aware of what's out there now and are more careful about everything we look at," Cook said.

In August, Curiosity landed inside a 154km-wide impact crater near the Martian equator on a $2.5bn, two-year mission to determine if Mars had the chemistry to support and preserve microbial life.

The mission is Nasa's first astrobiology initiative since the 1970s-era Viking probes.
Read more on:    nasa  |  space

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Miley Cyrus can’t get enough of her new puppy

Miley's new dog is too adorable.



13 guilty pets
Meet SA's top poacher-catcher
The unusual pets of Instagram
Bertie sets a new world record!

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

Plant some seeds. Your innovative mind is on fire and your ingenious ideas may just be the seeds for future projects. You may more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.