With all the hoopla surrounding the unknown results of the first analysis of a soil sample by Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, I thought an explainer would be useful. What is SAM, what is it designed to measure, and what is the nature of its results? Here you go.
This morning while driving to work I heard a terrific story about Curiosity on National Public Radio from Joe Palca, NPR's science correspondent. It was a great story despite the fact that it contained virtually no news. The nugget of non-news is that SAM's analysis of Mars soil has yielded some unspecified, exciting, but not-yet-confirmed result. But that's not really what Palca's story is about.
Curiosity is a rover again at last! She was parked at the dune named Rocknest for 40 sols, from sol 60 through 99. On sol 100, she drove right on top of the dune, obliterating her five scoop marks. Then on sol 102 she took a good long, 35-meter drive so that she's now right on the edge of the "high thermal inertia unit" that attracted her to the spot the team has named Glenelg.
This week's Cosmoquest Astronomy Hour Google+ Hangout at 1600 PDT / 2300 UTC on Wednesday will feature Pamela Conrad, the deputy principal investigator for Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. Tune in to learn more about how this experiment will change our view of Mars, and to ask your questions!
This week's Planetary Radio episode presents highlights of the first Curiosity press briefing about the Martian atmosphere, and then takes you to the opening day ceremony for Shuttle Endeavour. You have till Friday, November 9, at 10am Pacific to send your 10th anniversary message to the show and possibly win Bill Nye on your answering machine.
Curiosity has already spent more than three weeks at Rocknest, working through the very slow process of commissioning the sample handling systems. While parked, she's taken a couple of amazing photo mosaics.
It's becoming a biweekly thing -- join me, Fraser Cain, and now Casey Dreier for an update on Curiosity and a chance for you to get your Curiosity questions answered! The Google+ Hangout is on Wednesday, October 10, at 16:00 PDT / 23:00 UTC.
A beautiful panoramic view of the varied rocks of Glenelg has been transmitted from Curiosity on Mars. But before going any further, it's time to run the first Martian sand through the soil sampling system.