Scratching the Martian surface

Latest study of Mars’ soil turns up volcanic rocks, glassy particles and traces of poison

By Stephen Ornes, 12:31 PM October 17, 2013

It’s dirty work, but something has to do it. Curiosity, the NASA rover that’s been rolling around on Mars for more than a year, recently scooped up some alien soil. Like a lab on wheels, Curiosity used its precise onboard instruments to acquire fine details about the soil. Its first analyses are now in. These data offer scientists the best understanding yet of the Red Planet’s past — and present.

There were a few surprises. Among them: a rock that’s unlike any observed on Mars before. Less sur...

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