MSL: Curiosity Tastes First Sample in 'Clay-Bearing Unit'

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MSL: Curiosity Tastes First Sample in 'Clay-Bearing Unit'

Post by bystander » Sat Apr 13, 2019 7:08 pm

Curiosity Tastes First Sample in 'Clay-Bearing Unit'
NASA | JPL-Caltech | MSL Curiosity | 2019 Apr 11
Mastcam, on MSL Curiosity captured this set of images before and after it drilled a rock
nicknamed 'Aberlady,' on Saturday, April 6 (2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission).
The rock and others nearby appear to have moved when the drill was retracted. This
was the first time Curiosity has drilled in the long-awaited 'clay-bearing unit.'
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Scientists working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been excited to explore a region called "the clay-bearing unit" since before the spacecraft launched. Now, the rover has finally tasted its first sample from this part of Mount Sharp. Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed "Aberlady" on Saturday, April 6 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy lab on Wednesday, April 10 (Sol 2374).

The rover's drill chewed easily through the rock, unlike some of the tougher targets it faced nearby on Vera Rubin Ridge. It was so soft, in fact, that the drill didn't need to use its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock. This was the mission's first sample obtained using only rotation of the drill bit. ...

Scientists are eager to analyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they usually form in water. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spied a strong clay "signal" here long before Curiosity landed in 2012. Pinpointing the source of that signal could help the science team understand if a wetter Martian era shaped this layer of Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain Curiosity has been climbing. ...
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