Curiosity finds first mineral match on Mars surface

November 5, 2014 Author:

Mars rover Curiosity has discovered the first mineral match from the Martian surface. The sample, which was taken from a target called “Confidence Hills”, had more haematite content than any rock or soil sample previously found during the two-year-old mission. The hole drilled into a mountain yielded the mission’s confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

The hole drilled into the mountain has yielded the mission's confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit. The new sample has been the only partially oxidised and preserved samples of magnetite and olivine that indicated a gradient of oxidation levels. Researchers have reached the part of the Gale Crater where they have the mineralogical information that has been important in selection of Gale Crater as the landing site as the Crater has testified to the ancient presence of water.

"We are now on a path where the orbital data can help us predict what minerals we will find and make good choices about where to drill. Analyses like these will help us place rover-scale observations into the broader geologic history of Gale that we see from orbital data," he added.

NASA remarked that the new sample is only partially oxidised and preservation of magnetite and olivine indicates a gradient of oxidation levels. "That gradient could have provided a chemical energy source for microbes," Dr. Milliken concluded.