It probably doesn’t taste like chicken …

CuriosityMission managers have confirmed that Curiosity has “ingested” samples gathered from inside the rock dubbed “John Klein” and is now analysing them.

As reported last time around, the sample gathered by the rover’s turret-mounted drill has been used to clean the drill’s internal sample-handling mechanism. Originally, it had been thought the material might be dumped after this work, and a fresh sample obtained for analysis. However, concerns about the very long-term security of a filter required for processing samples meant the decision was taken to use the sample both for clean activities and for delivery to the on-board Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) science instruments.

Prior to delivery, the sample was processed by CHIMRA, the Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis system, also mounted in the turret at the end of the robot arm. This comprised vibrating the entire turret so that material of 150-microns or smaller could be deposited into a sample delivery mechanism which would then transfer small amounts to both CheMin and SAM over a two-day period.

The first delivery of a sample of the powder obtained from inside “John Klein”, equivalent to around half as much material as in an aspirin tablet, was made to CheMin on Sol 195 (February 22nd). Then, on Sol 196, a sample of equal size was delivered to SAM.

The left Mast Camera (Mastcam) took this image of Curiosity’s sample-processing and delivery tool just after it had delivered a portion of powdered rock to SAM on Sol 196. Mounted on CHIMRA, the portion delivery tube can be seen in the centre of the image, surrounded by a C-shaped windshield. The opening is about 4mm (0.16 inch) in diameter. Portions containing about half as much material as in an aspirin tablet were dropped through that opening into CheMin and SAM. This image was taken to check whether sample material remained in the tube opening after portion delivery, and has been white-balanced to show the scene under natural daylight on Earth.

“Data from the instruments have confirmed the deliveries,” said Curiosity Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, following the successful transfers to both instruments. The samples will now be subjected to a range of on-board tests using CheMin’s X-ray diffraction instrument, a process which generally takes a minimum of 10 hours and according to mission notes can be spread out over two or more consecutive Martian nights, and well as by the suite of instruments which comprise SAM.

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