Test & Measurement
Curiosity Rover Performs Unprecedented Dating & Analysis of Rock Sample
Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger gives an update on NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover. The second rock Curiosity drilled for a sample on Mars, which scientists nicknamed Cumberland, is the first ever to be dated from an analysis of its mineral ingredients while it sits on another planet. Scientists estimate the age of Cumberland at 3.86 billion to 4.56 billion years old. They also assessed how long Cumberland has been within about an arm's reach of the Martian surface, where cosmic rays that hit atoms in the rock produce gas buildups that Curiosity can measure. Analyses of three different gases yielded exposure ages in the range of 60 million to 100 million years. Finding rocks with the youngest exposure age is important in the mission's investigations of whether organic chemicals are preserved from ancient environments.