Science Package Ready for New Mars Mission

GREENBELT, Md., Oct. 11 (UPI) — One of the final scientific instrument packages for NASA’s upcoming Mars Science Laboratory is finished and ready for installation, officials said.

Final assembly of the Sample Analysis at Mars was finished at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and will be delivered to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in December for installation in the Curiosity rover, a Goddard center release said.

Scheduled for launch in the fall of 2011, the rover will carry the SAM laboratory across Mars when the spacecraft arrives and lands on the planet in 2012.

Along with other instruments, SAM will attempt to determine if Mars can support, or ever could have supported, microbial life, NASA says.

“We expect Curiosity will make amazing discoveries,” SAM Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Mahaffy of NASA Goddard said, “and we are looking forward to the contributions our mobile chemistry laboratory can make to a better understanding of the history of our neighboring planet.”

SAM will analyze samples of Martian rock and soil to search for organic compounds, exploring molecular and elemental chemistry relevant to life, NASA says.

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