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Published:February 10th, 2013 13:19 EST
Did NASA, Mars Rover, Curiosity Find Water?

Did NASA, Mars Rover, Curiosity Find Water?

By Ron G Anselm

Mars has always and continues to be a mystery to NASA and scientists all over the world. Mars has become the center-point of space study because it has always fascinated us throughout the years.  Whether it is through a high-end mission to study the red planet or through Hollywood where we have seen many shows and movies that has made Mars famous and in the ranks of celebrity movie stars not to mention the little green men that could have a star on the Hollywood walk of fame outside the Grauman`s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.

Mars is a fascinating planet and has also shown some signs that it could be our next habitable planet if we ever need to evacuate our current big rock we all live on and share. Recently, NASA`s Curiosity Rover which has been roaming the surface of Mars collecting samples and other alien materials for scientists to study for a few months now has finally for the first time in NASA`s history drilled into a flat, veiny rock collectinga  sample of the rocks interior.

Curiosity drilled a hole about 0.63 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep in patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock. The drilling process was beamed back to Earth by Curiosity on Saturday as it took place.  Scientists are specially looking for evidence that water could have or may still exist on the surface of Mars. The rock powder collected by Curiosity will be studied extensively with its laboratory instruments to analyze the powder from the rock.

John Grunsfeld of NASA said, "The most advanced planetary robot ever designed now is a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars. This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America." (Grunsfeld, J.)

NASA has been building our once leading space program and this milestone on Mars will help take our space program to the next level and hopefully once again in the future to be the best of the best.

Scientists will use what are known as ground controllers to carry out a series of steps to process samples taken from the rock. The samples will be studied in a systematically process which will consist of studying the samples little by little as not to miss any important details.

Avi Okon, who is NASA`s drill cognizant engineer at NASA`s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, commented on this by saying, "We commanded the first full-depth drilling, and we believe we have collected sufficient material from the rock to meet our objectives of hardware cleaning and sample drop-off." (Okon, A.)

The way the powder from the rock is collected is during the drilling process the powder travels up flutes on the drill bit. The bit assembly has chambers which holds the powder until the powder can be transferred to the sample handling mechanism which is located in Curiosity`s collection and handling unit.

Scientist will use some of the powder from the drilled rock to sort of clean or coat Curiosity`s handling instruments to make sure there is no traces left on the instruments that may still be on there when Curiosity left Earth. This has to happen to make sure all samples from Mars that are analyzed are one-hundred percent from Mars.

"We`ll take the powder we acquired and swish it around to scrub the internal surfaces of the drill bit assembly," said JPL`s Scott McCloskey who is the drill systems engineer. He went on to say, `Then we`ll use the arm to transfer the powder out of the drill into the scoop, which will be our first chance to see the acquired sample." (McCloskey, S.)

Being able to collect samples accurately and to get accurate data required NASA`s engineers to use precise skill to be able to manufacture these special types of instruments for Curiosity to do its job with precision. Louise Jandra who is the Chief Engineer for Curiosity sample system added more insight on this process by saying, "Building a tool to interact forcefully with unpredictable rocks on Mars required an ambitious development and testing program. To get to the point of making this hole in a rock on Mars, we made eight drills and bored more than 1,200 holes in 20 types of rock on Earth." (Jandra, L.)

The drilling process and sample collecting operations will also consist of the powder being collected will be vibrated once inside the sample handling device. The outcome of doing this will be the same as when you buy a bottle of say orange juice or any juice that has been sitting in the stores refrigerated cooler for any length of time, you shake the bottle up to mix up the contents. In this case of vibrating the collected powder from the drilled rocks will separate any other foreign materials that may not be of any interest to scientists and only keep the powder from the rock that scientists are interested in studying. This is called obtaining an accurate sample.

The collected powder will be vibrated at least once or twice over a sieve that screens out any particles larger than six-thousandths of an inch wide. This will leave the small portions of the samples collected to fall through ports on the rover`s deck into the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. Then once this happens the analyzing process begins.

So, as NASA scientist continue to make the red planet famous making it the focal point of studying; we continue to sit back and enjoy finding out about the new and interesting mysteries about Mars that make us want to turn on the television and watch old reruns of that once famous show of the sixties, `Lost in Space."



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