Green cheese? Gold? NASA to reveal what Mars is made of

By Tariq Malik

Published March 12, 2013

  • Curiosity rover shows first drill sample scoop of Mars

    NASA’s Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover’s drill. The picture was taken on Feb. 20, or Sol 193, Curiosity’s 193rd Martian day of operations. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

  • Curiosity rover shows first sample hole on Mars

    The hole in a rock called “John Klein” where NASA’s Mars rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars on Feb. 8, 2013, or Sol 182, Curiosity’s 182nd day on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

  • mars-rover-curiosity-1st-sample-site-portrait

    This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of images taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager on Feb. 3, 2013. The portrait was taken at the rock target “John Klein,” where the rover collected the first ever bedrock sa (ASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA will reveal new discoveries about Mars gleaned from the Curiosity rover’s first rock powder sample in a high-profile press conference on Tuesday.

The Mars rover press conference, which will be held at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, will begin at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). It will be broadcast live on NASA’s TV and webcast channels, a departure from recent teleconferences that have been a staple of Curiosity rover mission updates.

NASA officials said the Tuesday press conference will “discuss the Curiosity rover’s analysis of the first sample of rock powder ever collected on Mars.”

Curiosity drilled into a Mars rock for the first time on Feb. 8 using a percussive drill tool mounted to its robotic arm. The rover drilled a 2.5-inch hole into a flat Mars rock called “John Klein,” named after a NASA Curiosity rover project manager who died in 2011.

The first sample drilling on Mars revealed an odd, gray interior of Martian rock that stood out in stark contrast to the ubiquitous orange-red of the Red Planet’s surface. Curiosity scooped up a sample of the gray rock powder and placed it inside two onboard laboratories, called the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and Sample Analysis at Mars, to determine its chemical makeup. [1st Mars Drilling on Mars by Curiosity (Photos)]

NASA is expected to discuss the results from those tests in Tuesday’s press conference, which will include presentations by the following scientists:

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Red Planet on Aug. 5 to begin a two-year primary mission aimed at determining if the planet is now, or could ever have been, capable of supporting primitive life. The $2.5 billion Curiosity is about the size of a car, making it the largest rover ever to explore Mars. It carries 10 different science instruments to study the Red Planet in unprecedented detail.

Curiosity landed inside the huge Gale Crater on Mars and is currently at a site called Yellowknife Bay, which is home to the John Klein rock. The rover is ultimately destined to a region dubbed Glenelg, which is near the base of a 3-mile-high (5 kilometers) mountain rising from the center of Gale Crater.

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