Samples of Martian rock powder taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover this week could reveal new chemical and mineral elements on the red planet, team members say.
The rover drilled a 2.6-inch deep hole in a slab on sandstone on Monday and portions of the rock powder will be delivered to onboard laboratories in the coming days for mineral and chemical inspection.
"The drill tailings from this rock are darker-toned and less red than we saw at the two previous drill sites," said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, Tempe, the deputy principal investigator for Curiosity's Mast Camera. "This suggests that the detailed chemical and mineral analysis that will be coming from Curiosity's other instruments could reveal different materials than we've seen before. We can't wait to find out!"
The team is also hoping that the new samples provide details on the cementing material that holds together sand-size grains in the rock.
Last year, Curiosity drilled at two mudstone sites, which revealed evidence of an ancient lakebed environment with chemical elements and energy sources that provided conditions favorable for microbial life, NASA said in a statement.