06.21.2017 A.I. laser targeting
06.01.2017 Diagram of Lake Stratification on Mars
05.22.2017 NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Artist's Concept #1
05.15.2017 Putting Martian 'Tribulation' Behind
05.15.2017 From 'Tribulation' to 'Perseverance' on Mars
04.20.2017 Chemical Laptop Team
04.20.2017 Subcritical Water Extractor
04.20.2017 Chemical Laptop
04.20.2017 Atacama Landscape
03.30.2017 Measuring Mars' Atmosphere Loss
03.29.2017 Lifetime Achievement Award to Theisinger
03.29.2017 A Decade of Compiling the Sharpest Mars Map
03.21.2017 Break in Raised Tread on Curiosity Wheel
03.17.2017 COBALT/JPL team
03.09.2017 Back-to-Back Martian Dust Storms
02.27.2017 Swirling Dust in Gale Crater, Mars, Sol 1613
02.27.2017 Dust Devil Passes Near Martian Sand Dune
02.27.2017 Sand Moving Under Curiosity, One Day to Next
02.08.2017 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Observes Changes
01.26.2017 Mono Lake
01.25.2017 'Wing' Dike of Hardened Lava in New Mexico
01.25.2017 Blade-Like Martian Walls Outline Polygons
01.23.2017 Spirit And Opportunity By The Numbers
01.10.2017 Mars 2020 Rover - Artist's Concept
01.06.2017 Earth and Its Moon, as Seen From Mars
12.13.2016 Now and Long Ago at Gale Crater, Mars
12.13.2016 Where's Boron? Mars Rover Detects It
11.15.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, Stereo
11.03.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
10.17.2016 MAVEN Captures Rapid Cloud Formation
10.17.2016 Mars' Nightside Atmosphere
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Image Near Mars' South Pole
10.17.2016 Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation
10.05.2016 Dust Haze Hiding the Martian Surface in 2001
10.04.2016 Test of Lander Vision System for Mars 2020
10.03.2016 A Sharpened Ultraviolet View of Mars
10.03.2016 Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Murray Buttes'
Schematic of Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) InstrumentThe Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, largest of the 10 science instruments for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, will examine samples of Martian rocks, soil and atmosphere for information about chemicals that are important to life and other chemical indicators about past and present environments.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., built SAM. The instrument actually includes three different laboratory instruments for analyzing chemistry, plus mechanisms for handling and processing samples. SAM will examine gases from the Martian atmosphere, as well as gases that ovens and solvents pull from powdered rock and soil samples.
This schematic illustration shows major components of the microwave-oven-size instrument, which was installed into the mission's rover, Curiosity, in January 2011.
The quadrupole mass spectrometer identifies gases by the molecular weight and electrical charge of their ionized states. It will check for several elements important for life as we know it, including carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen contained in volatile molecules.
The tunable laser spectrometer uses absorption of light at specific wavelengths to measure concentrations of selected chemicals, such as methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor. It also identifies the proportions of different isotopes in those gases. Isotopes are variants of the same element with different atomic weights, and their ratios can provide clues about the planet's history.
The gas chromotograph separates different gases from a mixture to aid identification. It has its own detector but also feeds the separated fractions to the quadrupole mass spectrometer and the tunable laser spectrometer for more detailed analysis.
The solid sample inlet tubes are where the rover's robotic arm will deliver powdered samples that the rover drills from rocks or scoops from soil. The inlet is a highly polished funnel that vibrates to get all of the sample material down into a cup at the bottom of the tube.
The sample manipulation system has a wheel of small cups for moving the powdered samples to the next steps in analysis. Fifty-nine of the system's 74 cups are quartz cups that can be heated to very high temperature for pulling gases from the powder. Six others are calibration materials. The other nine are for samples treated with a combination of solvents and lower heating rather than high heat.
The chemical separation and processing laboratory includes valves, pumps, carrier-gas reservoirs and regulators, pressure monitors, chemical scrubbers, and two ovens that can heat samples to about 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit).
The atmospheric inlets admit gases from the Martian atmosphere for analysis.
The wide range pump, about 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) across, spins at up to 100,000 revolutions per minute for moving gases out of the system between analyses of different samples.
NASA will launch Curiosity from Florida between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011, together with other parts of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft for delivering the rover to the surface of Mars in August, 2012. During a prime mission lasting one Mars year (two Earth years), researchers will use the rover in one of the most intriguing areas of Mars to investigate whether conditions there have been favorable for microbial life and favorable for preserving evidence about whether life has existed.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Image Credit: NASA