That is an thrilling week for NASA’s Curiosity rover, which is able to carry out a extremely anticipated experiment that would reveal clues about the potential for life as soon as current on Mars.
Curiosity continuously makes use of its Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM) instrument to research Martian samples together with rocks and the ambiance. Nevertheless, this week SAM will probably be performing a really particular investigation.
Throughout the SAM instrument are two small cups of a compound known as tetramethylammonium hydroxide, or TMAH, which is used to establish natural supplies in samples. It was solely potential to suit a small quantity of this compound into the rover, so it’s a commodity that must be used very rigorously. Curiosity scientists have been ready a very long time for the proper alternative to make use of the TMAH and seek for natural compounds.
“SAM accommodates solely two small containers of TMAH and so we’ve been ready for eight years for simply the proper rock to drill to make use of this very valuable expendable commodity,” NASA atmospheric scientist Scott Guzewich wrote in a weblog put up. “The wait is lastly over and SAM will hopefully quickly give us new perception into the chemistry of historical Mars.”
Curiosity has lately been investigating a location known as Mary Anning 3, the place it has drilled a gap to entry rock samples. This specific space of the Gale Crater is wealthy in clay minerals and will maintain natural compounds, which will be related to the presence of life however will be created by different processes as effectively. So discovering natural compounds would point out that the potential substances for all times had been as soon as current on Mars, but it surely wouldn’t affirm that life positively existed there.
To examine for these natural compounds, Curiosity will run its drill backwards to drop samples of powdered rock into the SAM instrument the place they’ll be soaked in TMAH. The gases given off can inform the researchers what sort of compounds make up the pattern.
On the finish of August, Curiosity carried out a dry run of this experiment to verify all the things was working as anticipated and to make sure that the valuable cup of TMAH wouldn’t be biased. Now, the instrument is able to go forward with the actual experiment, and we’ll have to attend and see what outcomes it finds.