NASA's new Mars rover Curiosity has landed on Mars surface after a ~year journey (354 million miles) and already started sending photographs of the red planet. This $2.5 billion rover will stay in the red planet for 2 years and will explore and help us understand whether this planet has ever been able to support any kind of life. To answer this BIG question, Curiosity will collect rock/soil/dust samples and will perform whole bunch of analytical chemistry to analyse them.
Curiosity is basically an entire chemistry lab containing variety of 10 analytical equipments, which can test the chemical composition of soil, packed in one mobile unit. Lets see what analytical equipment it has and
- The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) Instrument: It is a powder x-ray diffraction with x-ray fluorescence capabilities and will tell something about mineral composition of Mars.
- Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Instrument: ChemCam fires invisible laser pulses at a target. It then views the resulting spark with a telescope and spectrometers to identify chemical elements.
- The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument: It has three laboratory tools for analyzing chemistry. The tools will examine gases from the Martian atmosphere, as well as gases that ovens and solvents pull from powdered rock and soil samples. SAM focuses on the detection of organics and the characterization of compounds in the Martian soil that could be used as nutrients for life, in particular nitrates and perchlorates.
- The Rover Environmental MonitoringStation (REMS) instrument: REMS will provide daily weather reports from the Red Planet. It consists of a suite of meteorological instruments that will record hourly measurements of wind, pressure, temperature, humidity, and ultra violet (UV) radiation.
Watch these videos.
Test results from these instruments will pave the way for future Mars missions, and may provide insight in the search for life on other planets.