Earth-like rock found by Curiousity on Mars

by Ana Ceballos

Courtesy NASA-JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

Approximately two months after the Mars rover Curiosity touched the red planet, the third scoop of Martian soil was gathered yesterday and placed inside the rover’s on-board equipment for analysis.

The first scoop was scraped on Oct. 7 from the Rocknest site, where the rover has been for more than a week. The scoop revealed a bright material in the sample. On Oct. 8, the “benign plastic” was identified as a piece from the rover.

Another find during the rover’s extraterrestrial journey included a rock sample which NASA analysts found resembled rocks from inside the Earth’s core.

“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” Curiosity co-investigator Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin.”

According to NASA, the rock, which has been named Jake Matijevic has a composition usually owed to processes inside Earth’s mantle, which result from crystallization of water-rich magma at an elevated pressure.

A sample from the third scoop was placed into the Curiosity’s observation tray to determine its mineral composition.