NASA’s Curiosity rover has taken a selfie capturing itself and the surrounding areas while performing a chemical experiment on the surface of Mars.
The Curiosity rover on September 24, conducted a special chemistry experiment called “wet chemistry” for only the second time after landing on our neighbouring planet in August 2012. The rover dropped a drilled sample in a special solvent that will help it identify the organic molecules which are containing carbon.
Curiosity rover’s mission team has taken this measure as the rover is now exploring a location called “Glen Etive” which is a part of clay-bearing unit, the US space agency said in a statement. Clay is good for preserving various chemical compounds and hold evidence of the existence of water on the surface of Mars.
“We’ve been eager to find an area that would be compelling enough to do wet chemistry,” Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in the statement. “Now that we’re in the clay-bearing unit, we’ve finally got it.”
Mahaffy and his team are into the analysis of dirt and rock powder which is drilled and collected by the rover during its exploration of the Gale Crater.
There are 74 small cups for testing the samples and most of these cups function as miniature ovens that heat the samples. However, there are nine cups that are filled with solvents which the Curiosity rover can use for wet chemistry experiments. These chemicals make it easier for SAM to detect certain carbon-based molecules important to the formation of life, called organic compounds.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has performed a wet chemistry test once prior to this back in December 2016 when the rover’s drill had malfunctioned. The members of the mission were not sure if they would be able to fix the drill and perform a wet chemistry test and hence they conducted one using loose sand scooped by the rover, NASA explained.
The results of the wet chemistry experiment done last month will be out by next year, the space agency said. “SAM’s data is extremely complex and takes time to interpret,” Mahaffy said. “But we’re all eager to see what we can learn from this new location, Glen Etive.”
Glen Etive is located on the Mount Sharp, which is a 3-miles-tall (5-kilometres-tall) mountain inside the Gale crater. Curiosity reached the mountain’s base in September 2014 and has been climbing the formation ever since. While doing so, the rover has been characterizing the potentially habitable ancient environment and looking for clues about Mars’ long-ago transition from a warm and wet world to the cold, dry desert planet we know today.
The Curiosity rover has been characterising the potentially habitable environments and is looking for evidences about the transition of Mars from a warm and wet planet to the cold, dry desert which we see today.
A portion of the rover’s route is visible in the selfie image shared by NASA. The image consists of 57 individual images that have been paired together. The images were clicked by the rover on October 11 with the help of Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which is at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
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