This plot of data from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the variety of gases that were released from sand grains upon heating in the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM.

This plot of data from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the variety of gases that were released from sand grains upon heating in the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM. The gases detected were released from fine-grain material, and include water vapor, carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulfur dioxide.

SAM has three instruments for analyzing gas from samples heated to different temperatures: a quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS), a gas chromatograph (GC) and a tunable laser spectrometer (TLS). Together, they are capable of obtaining the composition of gases; identifying different isotopes of lighter elements; and detecting organic, or carbon-containing, materials if present.

JPL manages the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more about NASA's Curiosity mission, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl, http://www.nasa.gov/mars, and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

View all Images