The first SAM soil results should come in soon, mission scientists said.
"We hope to be at this location for about another week, and today we will begin the uplinking process for the part of the experiment that feeds the sample eventually to the SAM instrument," said Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena. "About a week or 10 days from now, we should be getting data back from the conclusion of that."
SAM has already been sniffing the Martian atmosphere for traces of methane, a gas that is commonly produced by living organisms here on Earth. The mission team isn't ready to announce any results from this activity yet but should be soon.
"Stay tuned," Grotzinger said.
While at Rocknest, Curiosity has also been studying Red Planet rocks with some of its cameras and other instruments.
For example, last week the rover blasted a miniature system of natural arches — dubbed "Stonehenge" by some mission team members — with the laser on its ChemCam instrument. ChemCam determines mineral composition by analyzing the vaporized bits this laser produces.
Curiosity landed inside Gale Crater on Aug. 5. Its main destination is the base of Mount Sharp, the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain rising from the crater's center. Mars-orbiting spacecraft have spotted signs that Mount Sharp's foothills were exposed to liquid water long ago.
These interesting deposits lie about 6 miles (10 km) from Curiosity's landing site. Scientists want the rover to perform its first drilling activity at or near Rocknest, but Curiosity should start heading toward Mount Sharp when that's done — perhaps around the end of the year, Grotzinger has said.
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