Image Credit: NASA-GSFC
The Mars Science Laboratory mission will use SAM and other instruments on Curiosity to examine whether an intriguing area of Mars has had environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and favorable for preserving evidence of life, if it existed. Launch is scheduled for late 2011, with landing in August 2012.
SAM will explore molecular and elemental chemistry relevant to life. It will analyze samples of Martian rock and soil to assess carbon chemistry through a search for organic compounds, and to look for clues about planetary change.
SAM is in flight configuration, meaning its instruments are in the condition they will be in during launch and are ready to begin operations on Mars. The instrument suite (a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph and tunable laser spectrometer) started final environmental testing this week, which includes vibration and thermal testing to ensure SAM can survive the launch, deep space flight and conditions on Mars.
Link to full press release: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/moonmars/features/sam-configure.html
Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.