Today On Mars: Curiosity Uses Its Laser As A Sand Blaster

Curiosity is scooping lots of sand nowadays, and using its laser to study what the sand contains.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been scooping Martian sand inside itself to rinse out its instruments, and it's making some measurements while doing it. The rover is using almost its entire suite of instruments to study rocks and particles of dust on Mars.

In this gif above, you can see a before and after image of a laser blast the rover finished on Saturday. The Chemistry and Camera instrument, ChemCam to its friends, is a laser and spectrometer built to examine the chemical elements inside the rocks. ChemCam shot a small drift of sand Oct. 20 to study the grains the rover was scooping into itself. Scientists are still analyzing its findings.

Meanwhile, the rover is almost set to use its Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, for the first time. The rover will continue scooping, blasting and passive sensing for radiation and atmospheric gases for the next few weeks at Rocknest, a geologic site at Glenelg inside Mars' Gale Crater.