NASA’s Curiosity streamed back data of a new kind: in a series of 57 individual images, scientists constructed a selfie taken on the Red Planet. The selfie was taken on October 11, 2019, at the Glen Etive region. It also commemorates a special event to NASA: the rover undertook a unique experiment, the second since its landing on the Red Planet.
The Glen Etive is one of the regions that researchers have been waiting to explore since there are clay deposits in the region. The rover analyses samples by drilling for samples in the ground, uniquely powder them, then using its portable lab, the Sample Analysis at Mars, to perform tests. Two holes where the rover has taken samples are visible in the picture, labeled ‘Glen Etive 1’ and ‘Glen Etive 2’.
SAM performed the special chemical test being commemorated on September 24, 2019, using the sample obtained from the Glen Etive 2 site. Hence with 74 cups for sample analysis, nine of which for ‘wet chemistry’ experiments. , of the cups act as small ovens that are used to heat the samples. SAM then analyses the gases emitted from the combustion for chemical compounds that may hint at earlier life on Mars. The nine wet chemistry cups are filled with solvents used for testing organic compounds in the samples since carbon-based molecules are easier for SAM to detect in solution. Wet chemistry, because of the limited number of cups, is reserved for special occasions, only beeing done twice since the landing in 2012.
Scientists believe the Glen Etive is an ideal spot for the study, as the clay-bearing rocks could give more hints about the evolution of Mars. Clay-based rocks shelter chemical compounds from radiation better than other rocks, hence the researchers are eager to find out what is preserved at the Glen Etive, shedding more light on how the Martian climate evolved to its current cold desert state.
The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera at the end of the rover’s arm was used to take the individual images. To construct the selfie, the images were connected then the arm was digitally removed from the result. San Diego-based Malin Space Science Systems, designed the camera with a significant number of instruments on the rover produced by partners of NASA, including universities and international partners. The mission, named Mars Science Laboratory Project is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which designed and built Curiosity.
This post was originally published on Food and Beverage Herald