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Mars Rover Provides Clues to Mars' Past Atmosphere
Lab demonstration of the measurement chamber inside the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, an instrument that is part of SAM on NASA's Curiosity rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Lab demonstration of the measurement chamber inside the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, an instrument that is part of SAM on NASA's Curiosity rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New results from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) investigation on NASA's Curiosity rover have been reported in two papers in the journal Science. Curiosity has been using SAM to study the atmospheric composition on Mars, and is revealing new clues about how the planet lost much of its original atmosphere.

The findings come from atmospheric samples collected in the first 16 weeks of Curiosity's mission. The samples were analyzed with SAM's mass spectrometer and tunable laser spectrometer. SAM also includes a gas chromatograph, and all three of the instruments that make up SAM are used to analyze rocks, soil and atmosphere on Mars.

SAM does not provide direct measurements of the rate at which Mars' atmosphere is currently escaping. This is a task for NASA's next Mars mission, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).

The paper, "Isotope Ratios of H, C, and O in CO~2~ and H~2~O of the Martian Atmosphere" was published in the journal Science under lead author Chris R. Webster. A second paper, "Abundance and Isotopic Composition of Gases in the Martian Atmosphere from the Curiosity Rover," was also published in Science under lead author Paul R. Mahaffy.

Source: [NASA JPL]

Last Updated: 6 September 2013

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Last Updated: 6 Sep 2013