October 12, 2012 — The first rock nuzzled by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is turning out to be a bit more unusual than scientists thought it would be.
It was two weeks ago that Curiosity used its robot arm to touch at a football-sized pyramid-shaped rock on Mars. Scientists expected to find a rock similar to ones seen on previous missions, but instead they discovered something unlike anything before.
The rock, nicknamed "Jake Matijevic", was found to be in high elements consistent with the mineral feldspar, such as sodium and potassium, and low in magnesium and iron -- akin to some of those found on Earth.
“This rock is a close match in chemical composition to an unusual but well-known type of igneous rock found in many volcanic provinces on Earth,” Edward Stolper of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena said in a NASA statement. “With only one Martian rock of this type, it is difficult to know whether the same processes were involved, but it is a reasonable place to start thinking about its origin,” Stopler added.
Scientists have yet to find out how old the Martian pyramid is.
NASA said the initial results were just a preview, noting that Curiosity also carries analytical laboratories inside the rover.
Soon, scientists plan to analyze its first Martian soil sample .
Curiosity is on a two-year, $2.5 billion mission to investigate Mars' habitability, study its climate and geology, and collect data for a manned mission to Mars.