Testing, testing: JPL's Curiosity sends back first soil sample results from Mars

The rover Curiosity detected substances containing water, sulfur and other materials familiar to earthlings during its first full set of chemical tests of Martian soil, NASA officials announced Monday.

The materials are similar to those identified by previous Mars rovers.

Scientists involved with the project toasted the demonstration of Curiosity's capabilities as much as the findings themselves, according to a press statement. Curiosity is the first Mars rover able to scoop soil samples into analytical instruments for testing. The samples came from a relatively flat portion of the Gale Crater known as Rocknest, a drift of sand and dust.

"We used almost every part of our science payload examining this drift," Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech said in a statement. "The synergies of the instruments and richness of the data sets give us great promise for using them at the mission's main science destination on Mount Sharp."

The rover is expected to gradually climb Mount Sharp, moving through several different types of soil as it leaves the bottom of the Gale Crater over the next two years. About half the samples were of common volcanic minerals and half of glass or other non-crystalline materials, according to NASA.

-- Bill Kisliuk, Times Community News

Twitter: @bkisliuk