NASA researchers revealed surprising details from the preliminary analysis of a rock on the surface of Mars: The rock has both an unexpected mineral content and a potentially strange geological history. The results were discussed during a press conference on Thursday.
The rock was named "Jake Matijevic" by the researchers, after a former chief engineer on the Curiosity rover project who died in August.
The results came from two different tools onboard the rover: The ChemCam, which uses a laser to probe the chemical content of a sample from a distance, and APXS, a spectrometer that also can be used to understand the elemental chemistry of rocks.
The rock, referred to by the scientists as "Jake" for short, is an igneous rock shaped like a pyramid. Within Jake, ChemCam discovered an array of different mineral signatures in different locations, suggesting a diverse chemical makeup. Some parts of the rock were high in iron and titanium, while others were high in silicon, aluminum, sodium and potassium. APXS confirmed the results.
The makeup of the rock is surprising because rocks analyzed in past rover missions had different compositions, with less sodium and potassium than early Curiosity samples have shown. This suggests the area the rover is in is quite geologically different than the regions studied in the past.