On Sunday, Oct. 7, 61 one days after the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, NASA used the scoop on her robotic arm for the first time to dig up a small batch of Martian soil.
It turns out the elusive red dust, which scientists think may hold the secrets to whether or not Mars was ever able to support microbial life, resembles a common cupboard item.
“It looks and acts a lot like baking flour,” deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada told Amy Hubbard of the Los Angeles Times. “And just like any baker, we shook the scoop to make sure we had a nice level spoonful. This also mixes up the soil for us, to ensure a good analysis.”
The soil sample was collected from a sand dune, dubbed “Rocknest,” which is about 1,300 feet from where Curiosity landed on Aug. 5. After taking its first scoop, the mission was briefly put on hold when the car-size robot got distracted by a shiny object on the ground. The rover team thinks the bright object could be a piece of the rover.
Curiosity’s first scoopful on Mars is shown below. The scoop is 1.8 inches wide and 2.8 inches long. The dirt will now be analysed by instruments to determine its chemical makeup.
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