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Curiosity Finds Volcanic Soils

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the hawaii-is-from-mars dept.

Mars 52

Zothecula writes "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has completed its first soil analysis of the Red Planet. The unmanned explorer used an advanced, miniaturized X-ray diffraction instrument that is part of the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) of its internal laboratory. The soil, collected at a site designated 'Rocknest' in Gale Crater, reveals that Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands." And, of course, a shot of the area because it looks cool.

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52 comments

I'm still waiting... (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830341)

I really hope that Curiosity finds a Martian cat one day.

Re:I'm still waiting... (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830445)

Pretty sure that was their main reason for equipping it with a laser.

Re:I'm still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41831693)

Possibly my favorite exchange on /. ever.

Re:I'm still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41831767)

Like This? [imgur.com]

Re:I'm still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41834707)

Hey fellow Anon, just wanted to give you little pitty-pat on the head. That was amusing.

Re:I'm still waiting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41832447)

And the remains will be returned to Earth by a spaceship named...

Satisfaction.

mars (-1, Offtopic)

medicineturtle (2764325) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830365)

im not so sure we should be there cherokee http://www.schwitzhuette.biz/ [schwitzhuette.biz]

Re:mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830411)

Worthless link, apparently just promoting his personal site.

Re:mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830515)

agreed... someone mod this Original Post down

Re:mars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830539)

Worthless? This was the best read I've had in a while. I'm still laughing.

Not a problem. The skidmarks are a problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830387)

I always get the funny looks @ the laundramat.

Pack your bags! (4, Funny)

crazyjj (2598719) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830495)

Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands

Now all it needs is air pressure, oxygen, water, more sunlight, an ozone layer, a magnetic field, arable soil, flora, and fauna--and we can live there no problem!

Re:Pack your bags! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41832111)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Mars committed volcanic suicide. By this, I theorize that Mars once had a magnetosphere and a dense atmosphere, then started violently puking its core out until its magnetosphere weakened to he point of stripping its atmosphere. Core was iron, hence "The Red Planet."

Re:Pack your bags! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41834623)

Mars should really lay off the booze.

Re:Pack your bags! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41832809)

Now all it needs is air pressure, oxygen, water, more sunlight, an ozone layer, a magnetic field, arable soil, flora, and fauna--and we can live there no problem!

You forgot the Polynesian girls with wreaths of flowers, a dying language with very few distinct phonemes and a naval base with many battleships and few airplanes. But I would personally omit the Christian missionaries, they have really corrupted the locals' morals. Shame on them!

Re:Pack your bags! (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | about a year and a half ago | (#41833291)

You forgot to rub your pillock against another bloke's prat, and toss him off at the same time.

Re:Pack your bags! (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41840661)

Martian soil is a weathered volcanic type similar to soils found in the Hawaiian Islands

Now all it needs is air pressure, oxygen, water, more sunlight, an ozone layer, a magnetic field, arable soil, flora, and fauna--and we can live there no problem!

As this is slashdot, I'm just waiting for smeone to say that these are merely technical details, which with the use of highly paid computer scientists and engineers we can solve before too long, probably in the next five to ten years.

Which would we (humans) see? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830547)

The link to the site has a pic under Martian light and colour balanced for Earth.
I wonder, when humans get there, which will our brains see - the one on the left
or will our brains "colour" adjust to the pic on the right...?

Re:Which would we (humans) see? (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830679)

Probably something between the two.

They should take some HDR multi-exposures and show that off :)

Re:Which would we (humans) see? (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year and a half ago | (#41831189)

Your brain color-adjusts all the time. Back in the film camera days, there was indoor film and outdoor film. If you used outdoor film indoors the colors came out way too warm/yellowish, if you used indoor film outdoors the photo would come out way too blueish/cool. The colors as shown by the film are what the actual colors were, but your brain adapts and changes the colors to "normal".

Amazing (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830563)

Wow, evidence that there were once active volcanoes on Mars, who would have guessed that...

I think Olympus Mons is bigger than Hurricane Sandy, although it probably didn't affect anybody on this planet.

Re:Amazing (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year and a half ago | (#41833705)

although it probably didn't affect anybody on this planet.

The top of that volcano is literally "in space" it's so tall. It's possible that... way back when it did erupt, it seeded this planet with life.

When they were building that Mars rover... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830621)

... my cat, FluffBall accidentally got into the building where NASA was constructing the rover.... They were doing a test to see if it can pick up and crush rocks to see what it's made of. My poor cat wandered too close and all I could do was watch. The hole he got through was too small for me to get through and the doors were locked.

Curiosity killed the cat :(

What other kinds of minerals were they expecting? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830623)

It's not like anyone would expect to find a lot of sedimentary or organic minerals on mars.

Re:What other kinds of minerals were they expectin (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830767)

They are in the commissioning phase for the instruments. They chose to sample this location precisely because it looked like it would be a fairly ordinary volcanic sand. They say in the press release that it's more or less what they were expecting. They weren't expecting big surprises, just confirmation that the instruments do indeed seem to be working.

They will have more interesting sedimentary rocks to sample once they move on to new sites. In fact, some finely-layered, probably sedimentary bedrock outcrop can be seen on the other side of the gully to the northeast of where the rover is now, in the direction they are planning to head next (the telescopic zoom on the mastcams is awesome!). I think the short-term plan is to drill some of those outcrops and run them through the chemical and other analyses. Then they'll probably turn around and head south to look at the main outcrops on the mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, but that's probably a month or two away at least.

Re:What other kinds of minerals were they expectin (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830891)

What, and we should just assume the expectations are correct? It's always better to know for sure. The reaction from the people interviewed seems to be "Yep, pretty much exactly as we expected". That doesn't mean it was a waste of time, that means they can be even more sure that their models and predictions are right. There's no point in basing a later hypothesis on data which you haven't actually proven: you risk spending years of time and huge sums of money barking up the wrong tree.

Seems to be logical. (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830657)

A lot of the dirt we see on Earth, is made from decayed plant material, even normal beach (non-volcanic) sand on our beaches are made up of a lot of crustacean shells. Even with some water chances are Mars is lifeless, if there is live it wouldn't be as plentiful. So the soil would be mostly volcanic like.

Sweet (1)

MacColossus (932054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830677)

Martian atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide. Plants like carbon dioxide. Now we just have to plant enough macadamia and pineapple plants to start terraforming and produce oxygen. :-)

Re:Sweet (2)

Vernes (720223) | about a year and a half ago | (#41830819)

They also like nutrients from the soil.
There are none on mars.
You will need to fling large amount of ready-to-use nutrient rich soil along with those plants.
Now you have plants converting nutrients AND carbon dioxide in more nutrients.

Thinking further, I think you need to resurrect one of em dinosaur era plants for trapping carbon dioxide.
Plants did a lot of carbon dioxide trapping in those days.

Re:Sweet (1)

Kittenman (971447) | about a year and a half ago | (#41834073)

They also like nutrients from the soil. There are none on mars. You will need to fling large amount of ready-to-use nutrient rich soil along with those plants. Now you have plants converting nutrients AND carbon dioxide in more nutrients.

Sure? I live in NZ, and the reason why we can feed 20 million but only have a population of 4.5 million is because our soil is so fertile - after thousands of years of volcano blasts. One small town (Pukekoke) gets two (or possibly three) harvests of onions a year. And the soil there is a browny-red.

Now I'm assuming that volcanic matter needs special stuff to help plants get started, but what's that? "Nutrients" = ???

I'm also assuming we don't want to plant Mars full of onions...

Re:Sweet (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41836801)

If we can get onions to grow, then I have no problem covers Mars in onions. If we could add a legume or potatoes, so much the better.

Re:Sweet (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about a year and a half ago | (#41840827)

If we can get onions to grow, then I have no problem covers Mars in onions. If we could add a legume or potatoes, so much the better.

Hemp is the ideal crop for Mars as it's tough and versatile. Plus it would help encourage space tourism and even migration to Mars, as long as we didn't impose antiquated Earth laws there.

Re:Sweet (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#41836795)

"There are none on mars."
And you know this..how? Tests on the soil say otherwise.
Did you mean 'organic matter'?

"You will need to fling large amount of ready-to-use nutrient rich soil along with those plants."
I have no problem with that. Toss it into the northern regions. Some sort of Ivy. Lets see what happens.

Re:Sweet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830851)

Yes, plants do like carbon dioxide. The problem is, plants also like water:

6CO2 + 6H2O + (sunlight) ---> C6H12O6 + 6O2

And, even if there was water vapor, the atmospheric pressure is so low that I don't think there's a high enough concentration CO2 for them to live.

Waste of money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41830791)

We should have used this money to fatten up the poor and pay their doctor bills when they have a heart attack.
 
Obama/Biden 2012!!!!

Terrestrial applications (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#41831003)

I found the links to various terrestrial applications of the x-ray diffraction technology to be quite interesting. Portable or just more compact lab equipment based on this could be quite useful.

Who knows? We may soon be able to run a sample through one of these and see what Slashdot editors have been smoking.

Re:Terrestrial applications (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year and a half ago | (#41832889)

You mean all that government-funded R&D into space technology might have some purpose here at home? Wow! I thought anything that the gub'ment spend money on was waste, fraud, an infringement of freedom, handouts to slacking moochers, or just plain pointless.

Re:Terrestrial applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41833813)

"Who knows? We may soon be able to run a sample through one of these and see what Slashdot editors have been smoking."

X-ray diffraction (XRD) [wikipedia.org], specifically powder diffraction [wikipedia.org] in this case, is a cool technique for identifying minerals and other crystalline materials. It yields more diagnostic results than a chemical/elemental analysis, because it gives you the atomic structure of the crystal (i.e. not merely the proportion of atoms in the material, but their arrangement, and for some mixtures of elements there is more than one way to put them together into a crystal). What it can't do is identify amorphous (non-crystalline) materials such as glass, most organic material (unless crystallized), etc. Those are practically invisible to an XRD instrument.

Bottom line, as powerful as XRD is, you will not find out what is being smoked if it isn't crystalline, which leaves out a huge class of typical materials.

Volcanic soil ROCKS for growing too... apk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41831067)

Too bad the temperature of MARS makes that unlikely with current crop strains since from what I understand, the predominance of carbon dioxide in MARS' atmosphere would make it a growing paradise in combination with volcanic soil types...

* Any of you that are more "attuned" to this type of madness? Please - "sound off" & correct me where I may be incorrect above!

APK

P.S.=> Of course, there's PROBABLY botanists/scientists/geneticists "hard @ work" circumventing THAT little "roadblock" on the temperatures that plants can stand, as far as "lows", too (terra-forming? NOT "out-of-the-question" here, if not eventually only) - I state this, since we as human beings are PRETTY GOOD @ solving problems MOST of the time, & especially when it matters...

... apk

I still cant believe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41831759)

we're watching footage from mars

Re:I still cant believe (1)

stridebird (594984) | about a year and a half ago | (#41833767)

Me too. Blows my mind; now and then I find myself suddenly thinking: oh yeah, there's a frickin ROBOT on another PLANET right frickin NOW! It is incredibly cool.

That, and voyager passing the heliosphere. That is in some ways the number one human physical achievement.

Re:I still cant believe (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year and a half ago | (#41838047)

Too bad you weren't around (I assume) when Neil Armstrong first stepped on to the Moon. We were glued to TV that day. That was even harder to believe at the time. Telstar 1, the first satellite to beam live television from Europe to the US was only launched 7 years before that.

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