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NASA celebrates first Mars rover scoop
NASA scientists say they are celebrating the Mars Curiosity rover’s first collection of martian soil to be analyzed for a possible history of microbial life.
The first scoop of dirt, although a simple action, is a “huge milestone” in the Curiosity mission, deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada told the Los Angeles Times Monday.
“There was a lot of clapping yesterday, probably the most since landing, when we saw a nice full pile of soil in the scoop,” Vasavada said. “It looks and acts a lot like baking flour. And just like any baker, we shook the scoop to make sure we had a nice level spoonful. This also mixes up the soil for us, to ensure a good analysis.”
The rover is at a spot in Mars’ Gale Crater called Rocknest, and on Sunday work on collecting a sample was initiated from a “nice pile of soil,” Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said.
“Curiosity then scuffed the soil with her wheel to confirm its depth and compactness,” he said. “After some additional images and chemical data cleared the soil for scooping, the team sent up commands to scoop.”
Postings on the @MarsCuriosityTwitter account, which are phrased from the rover’s point of view, tweeted Sunday: “So excited to dig in! One scoop of regolith ripple, coming right up!”
Monday morning, there was a new tweet: “Here’s the scoop: I like my regolith shaken!”
Copyright 2012 by United Press International