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Curiosity probes Mars with army of sensors

Posted: 23 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Mars Curiosity? Martian atmosphere? sensors? instruments? mobile laboratory?

Six weeks into its landing on the Red Planet, Mars 'Curiosity' has been delivering samples gathered through an array of sensors and instruments and sending those to an on-board laboratory for careful analysis.

For example, Curiosity's Sample Analysis of Mars (SAM) suite recently analysed the Martian atmosphere to determine the concentration of methane. The initial results were a disappointment, with Curiosity's sensors detecting only trace amounts that could be attributed to factors other than methane-producing microbes.

SAM also found that the Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide (95.9 per cent), with oxygen accounting for only 0.14 per cent.

Still, Curiosity's cameras have already found unmistakable signs that water once flowed in Gale Crater. And where there is water, there once could have been life.

As Curiosity continues to move slowly across Gale Crater to it ultimate destination, the crater's central peak, Mount Sharp, we offer a road show of what this remarkable machine has so far uncovered about Mars.

Curiosity's arm

The image shows that MAHLI has a thin film or coating of Martian dust on it. This dust accumulated during Curiosity's final descent to the Martian surface, as the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft's descent stage (or sky crane) engines were disrupting the surface nearby. The mechanism at the right in this image is Curiosity's dust removal tool, a motorized wire brush.

Curiosity Mast Camera

The left eye of the Mast Camera on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity took this image of the camera on the rover's arm, the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), on Sept. 5. MAHLI is one of the tools on a turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Shooting lasers

Tunable Laser Spectrometer

A lab demonstration of the measurement chamber inside the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, an instrument that is part of the Sample Analysis at Mars investigation on the Curiosity rover. The demo uses visible lasers-rather than the infrared ones on the actual spectrometer-to show how the lasers bounce between the mirrors in the measurement chamber. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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