NASA's Curiosity rover analyzed its first solid sample of Mars in November with a variety of instruments, including the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. The sample of Martian soil came from the patch of windblown material called "Rocknest."
Curiosity's Goddard-built SAM instrument suite has taken significant steps toward understanding how Mars may have lost much of its original atmosphere, which is now about 100 times thinner than Earth's.
Stephanie Getty's innovative concepts for instruments to detect amino acids and other organic compounds on comets, asteroids and icy moons earned her the top honor from NASA Goddard's Office of the Chief Technologist.
On July 28, the public is invited to learn about Curiosity, the Mars rover scheduled to land on Aug. 6, and SAM, its miniature chemistry lab. Hands-on activities for kids and presentations by SAM scientists and engineers are featured.
Two new NASA missions, one that will roam the surface and another that will orbit the planet and dip briefly into its upper atmosphere, will try to discover what transformed Mars into it's current uninhabitable state.
NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a "kit" of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.
Some asteroids may have been "factories" capable of churning out life's ingredients, but one appears to have been less like a rigid assembly line and more like a flexible diner that doesn't mind making changes to the menu.
Goddard will manage this 2016 mission to return samples from asteroid 1999 RQ36 and provide the OVIRS instrument, with Solar System Exploration Division staff in a range of project scientist, instrument scientist, and science co-investigator roles. Project Scientist: Joe Nuth, with Jason Dworkin as deputy and Lucy Lim as assistant PS; OVIRS Instrument Scientist: Dennis Reuter, with Amy Simon-Miller as deputy IS; Science Co-Investigators: Danny Glavin and David Rowlands.
Hydrogen sulfide, the malodorous compound produced by rotten eggs, may have been an important ingredient in the recipe for life, according to a recently discovered experiment performed by Stanley Miller in 1958.