Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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If these (Martian) rocks could talk

Finding the element boron might not seem exciting, but if you find it on Mars and you’re interested in alien life, it’s a big deal.
April 9, 2017
mars rover

Developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory with the French space agency, the ChemCam instrument on the Mars rover Curiosity zaps rocks, then analyzes the spectrum of light emitted from the resulting super-hot plasmas to determine what elements are present. The big circular opening in the rectangular case on top of the mast is the telescope for ChemCam. The spectrometer sits inside the main rover body.CREDIT: NASA

If these (Martian) rocks could talk

by Patrick Gasda

Finding the element boron might not seem exciting, but if you find it on Mars and you’re interested in alien life, it’s a big deal. Like manganese, another element that NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered in surprising abundance on Mars, boron has a lot to say about the habitability of the Red Planet.

Understanding how these elements got there and the implications to our search for life on Mars is part of Curiosity’s mission. A rolling laboratory that has been creeping across Gale Crater for four and a half years, Curiosity bristles with drills, tools and instruments for studying the chemistry of rocks and soil. It’s all about answering a simple question: Could past or present conditions on Mars support life?

This article first appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.


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