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Mars NASA Space Science

NASA Rover May Contaminate Its Samples of Mars 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-problem-just-launch-another-one dept.
sciencehabit writes "The Curiosity rover will definitely find evidence of an advanced civilization if it lands safely on Mars. That's because rock samples the rover drills are likely to be contaminated with bits of Teflon from the rover's machinery, NASA announced during a press teleconference. The bits of Teflon can then mix with the sample, which will be vaporized for analysis. The problem for the scientists is that Teflon is two-thirds carbon — the same element they are looking for on Mars." Fortunately, this problem isn't a showstopper: "...there are still mitigation steps to take if SAM's analysis is potentially compromised. Contaminant production appears to be stronger in the drill's percussion mode, when it pounds powerfully and rapidly on Martian rock. So ratcheting the percussion down, or switching over to the more gentle rotary mode, may make the issue more manageable. If that doesn't work, the MSL team could just take the drill out of commission, solely scooping soil instead of also boring into rock. Curiosity could still access the interior of some Martian rocks by rolling over them with its wheels, Grotzinger said. But all in all, he's confident that the team will figure things out in the next month or two."
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NASA Rover May Contaminate Its Samples of Mars

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