Even Mars rovers get hungry. In Curiosity's case, however, the meal is Mars soil.

NASA's monumental Mars rover has finally ingested a solid sample from the red planet, one of its central goals on Mars. The rover's internal Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) mini-laboratories are currently analyzing the dirt, NASA reported.

The goal of the $2.5 billion Mars exploration, during which Curiosity traveled 352 million miles in almost nine months to reach the red planet, is to figure out if Gale Crater and Mt. Sharp hosted microbial life, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

This sample will take the mission a step closer to that goal.

"We are crossing a significant threshold for this mission by using CheMin on its first sample," said Curiosity's project scientist, John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The sample was confirmed as accepted on Thursday, and the results of the tests should be available to NASA scientists as early as next week, BBC News reported.

"The most important thing about our mobile laboratory is that it eats dirt - that's what we live on," Grotzinger told reporters.

NASA has also released photos of "bright, shiny" objects that appear to be part of Mars' surface, and initially intercepted Curiosity's attempt to take a soil sample, space and science website RedOrbit reported.

“We plan to learn more both about the spacecraft material and about the smaller, bright particles,” said Curiosity Project Manager Richard Cook of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We will finish determining whether the spacecraft material warrants concern during future operations. The native Mars particles become fodder for the mission’s scientific studies.”



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10.19.2012 (551 days ago)
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