Heating Martian Sand GrainsThis 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.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC