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NASA's Mars rover completes first analysis of Martian soil

(Xinhua)

09:06, October 31, 2012

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Mars rover Curiosity has completed its first analysis of the Martian soil, U.S. space agency NASA announced on Tuesday.

The soil sample revealed the presence of crystalline feldspar, pyroxenes and olivine mixed with some amorphous (non-crystalline) material, which indicates the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii, said NASA.

Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.

"We had many previous inferences and discussions about the mineralogy of Martian soil," said David Blake of NASA's Ames Research Center, who is the principal investigator for CheMin. " Our quantitative results provide refined and in some cases new identifications of the minerals in this first X-ray diffraction analysis on Mars."

The identification of minerals in rocks and soil is crucial for the mission's goal to assess past Martian environmental conditions. Each mineral records the conditions under which it formed.

Curiosity, loaded with the most-sophisticated instruments ever used to explore another world, touched down on the Red Planet on Aug. 6. During the next two years, it will use its 10 instruments to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.
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