Curiosity has now measured Mars’ atmospheric conditions. It sucked Martian air into its Sample Analysis at Mars (Sam) instrument to investigate the concentration of different gases. This analysis is ongoing however no big surprises are expected; carbon dioxide will most likely be the dominant gas. The Viking probes examined the chemistry of the atmosphere in the 1970’s and carbon dioxide was found to be the chief component. Scientists are more interested as to whether methane is detected, as this gas has been observed on Mars by satellite and by Earth telescopes. The presence of methane would indicate there could be a replenishing source of some kind, either biological or geochemical; methane should be short-lived. It is hoped the results from the first test could be available next week, though it will take a long time before conclusions can be made about the status of methane on Mars.
This image was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing tracks from NASA's Curiosity rover after a few short drives. Since Aug. 5 PDT, Curiosity has driven a total of 109 metres. There are two marks near the site where the rover landed; these scour marks formed when the reddish surface dust was blown away by the rover’s descent, exposing the darker basaltic rock beneath. This is also why the tracks appear darker, as the rover’s wheels have disturbed the surface dust layer. Studying these track marks over time will give scientists more information about how the surface of Mars changes due to erosive forces.