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NASA to unveil new Mars discoveries by Curiosity

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager on Feb. 3. The portrait was taken at the rock target "John Klein," where the rover collected the first ever bedrock sample of Mars using its drill on Feb. 8.

By Tariq Malik

NASA will reveal new discoveries about Mars gleaned from the Curiosity rover's first rock powder sample in a high-profile news conference on Tuesday.

The Mars rover news conference, which will be held at the agency's headquarters in Washington, will begin at 1 p.m. EDT. It will be broadcast live on NASA's TV and webcast channels, a departure from recent teleconferences that have been a staple of Curiosity rover mission updates.

You can watch the Mars rover press conference on Space.com here.

NASA officials said the conference will "discuss the Curiosity rover's analysis of the first sample of rock powder ever collected on Mars."

Curiosity drilled into a Mars rock for the first time on Feb. 8 using a percussive drill tool mounted to its robotic arm. The rover drilled a 2.5-inch (6.4 centimeters) hole into a flat Mars rock called "John Klein," named after a NASA Curiosity rover project manager who died in 2011.

The first sample drilling on Mars revealed an odd, gray interior of Martian rock that stood out in stark contrast to the ubiquitous orange-red of the Red Planet's surface. Curiosity scooped up a sample of the gray rock powder and placed it inside two onboard laboratories, called the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and Sample Analysis at Mars, to determine its chemical makeup. [1st Mars Drilling on Mars by Curiosity (Photos)]

NASA is expected to discuss the results from those tests on Tuesday and include presentations by the following scientists:

  • Michael Meyer, lead scientist, Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington.
  • John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
  • David Blake, principal investigator for Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy investigation, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
  • Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator for Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars investigation, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Red Planet on Aug. 5 to begin a two-year primary mission aimed at determining if the planet is now, or could ever have been, capable of supporting primitive life. The $2.5 billion Curiosity is about the size of a car, making it the largest rover ever to explore Mars. It carries 10 different science instruments to study the Red Planet in unprecedented detail.

Curiosity landed inside the huge Gale Crater on Mars and is currently at a site called Yellowknife Bay, which is home to the John Klein rock. The rover is ultimately destined to a region dubbed Glenelg, which is near the base of a 3-mile-high (5 kilometers) mountain rising from the center of Gale Crater.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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