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Mars rover targets a rock called Jake

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PostSubject: Mars rover targets a rock called Jake Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:57 pm

The first rock that NASA's Curiosity rover will touch for science's sake on Mars is a pyramid-shaped chunk that's been named in honor of a top engineer who worked on every one of NASA's rover missions — but passed away just days after Curiosity's landing.

Curiosity's study of the rock, dubbed "Jake Matijevic," will dominate the next few days of the rover's operations on Mars, just as its observations of Martian mini-eclipses dominated the past few days.

Jake the rock, which measures about 10 inches (25 centimeters) tall and 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide, isn't all that exotic. It seems to consist of garden-variety basalt, similar to the first Martian rock that NASA's Spirit rover examined eight and a half years ago. And that's exactly the point, according to Caltech's John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Curiosity mission. Jake will provide a good yardstick for sophisticated instruments such as the Alpha Proton X-Ray Spectrometer, or APXS, and the laser-zapping ChemCam analyzer.

By matching up the chemical readings from the different instruments, Curiosity's science team will be able to confirm that the findings from the fancy-schmancy ChemCam are consistent with the readings from the APXS, an upgraded version of a device that was included on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Grotzinger told reporters today that it's an opportunity to compare "something which is tried and true with the latest and greatest new technology."

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