How could I not post this? The activities of our Martian geologist friend continue to amaze, the latest being sand sampling. All images and captions are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, and the NASA Curiosity website, which describes the image above:
First Scoop by Curiosity, Sol 61 Views
This pairing illustrates the first time that NASA's Mars rover Curiosity collected a scoop of soil on Mars. It combines two raw images taken on the mission's 61st Martian day, or sol (Oct. 7, 2012) by the right camera of the rover's two-camera Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument. The right Mastcam, or Mastcam-100, has a telephoto, 100-millimeter-focal-length lens.
The image on the left shows the ground at the location "Rocknest" after the scoop of sand and dust had been removed. The image on the right shows the material inside the rover's scoop, which is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long….
The team operating Curiosity decided on Oct. 9, 2012, to proceed with using the rover's first scoop of Martian material. Plans for Sol 64 (Oct. 10) call for shifting the scoopful of sand and dust into the mechanism for sieving and portioning samples, and vibrating it vigorously to clean internal surfaces of the mechanism. This first scooped sample, and the second one, will be discarded after use, since they are only being used for the cleaning process. Subsequent samples scooped from the same "Rocknest" area will be delivered to analytical instruments.
Sand Filtered through Curiosity's Sieve
This image shows fine sand from Mars that was filtered by NASA's Curiosity rover as part of its first "decontamination" exercise. These particles passed through a sample-processing sieve that is porous only to particles less than 0.006 inches (150 microns) across. The view from the rover's Mast Camera looks into the portion box and "throat" of the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) tool on the end of the rover's arm.
The decontamination exercise involved scooping some soil, shaking it thoroughly inside the sample-processing chambers to scrub the internal surfaces, putting it through a sieve, dividing it into the appropriate portions, then discarding the sample. This image is downstream of the sieve. The portion box will meter out a portion about the volume of half a baby aspirin so that the instruments receiving the sample will not choke on a sample that is too big.
The decontamination procedure will be repeated three times. The rinse-and-discard cycles serve a quality-assurance purpose similar to a common practice in geochemical laboratory analysis on Earth.
This image was taken by Curiosity's right Mast Camera (Mastcam-100) on Oct. 10, 2012, the 64th sol, or Martian day, of operations. Scientists white-balanced the color in this view to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth.
This image shows the wall of a scuffmark NASA's Curiosity made in a windblown ripple of Martian sand with its wheel. The upper half of the image shows a small portion of the side wall of the scuff and a little bit of the floor of the scuff (bottom of this image). The prominent depression with raised rims at the bottom center of the image was formed by one of the treads on Curiosity's front right wheel.
The largest grains in this image are about 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 millimeters) in size. Those large grains were on top of the windblown ripple and fell down to this location when the scuff was made. The bulk of the sand in the ripple is smaller, in the range below 0.002 to 0.008 inches (50 to 200 microns).
The full scuffmark is 20 inches (50 centimeters) wide, which is the width of Curiosity's wheel.
This image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) is the product of merging eight images acquired at eight slightly different focus settings to bring out details on the wall, slopes, and floor of the wheel scuff. The merge was performed onboard the MAHLI instrument to reduce downlinked data volume.
The image was acquired by MAHLI with the lens about 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) from the target. The pixel scale is about 0.002 inches (50 microns) per pixel. The image covers an area, roughly 3 by 2 inches (8 by 6 centimeters). The image was obtained on Oct. 4, 2012, or sol 58, the 58th Martian day of operations on the surface.
'Rocknest' From Sol 52 Location
This patch of windblown sand and dust downhill from a cluster of dark rocks is the "Rocknest" site, which has been selected as the likely location for first use of the scoop on the arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. This view is a mosaic of images taken by the telephoto right-eye camera of the Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 52nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Sept. 28, 2012), four sols before the rover arrived at Rocknest. The Rocknest patch is about 8 feet by 16 feet (1.5 meters by 5 meters).
Scientists white-balanced the color in this view to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.
Once the first two scoops of sand have been used for the decontamination process, the next one will be delivered to the array of analytical instruments: I suspect that I am not alone in the eager anticipation of the results!