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Mars Soil Similar To Volcanic Sand On Hawaii's Mauna Kea, NASA Curiosity Rover Finds

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MARS SOIL
This handout photo provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, taken Oct. 15, 2012, shows part of the small pit or bite created when NASA's Mars rover Curiosity collected its second scoop of Martian soil at a sandy patch called "Rocknest." The bright particle near the center of this image, and similar ones elsewhere in the pit, prompted concern because a small, light-toned shred of debris from the spacecraft had been observed previously nearby. However, the mission's science team assessed the bright part | AP

PASADENA, Calif. -- Scientists say the Martian soil at the rover Curiosity's landing site contains minerals similar to what's found on Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano.

The finding released Tuesday is the latest step in trying to better understand whether the environment could have been hospitable to microbial life.

Curiosity recently ingested its first soil sample and used one of its instruments to tease out the minerals present. An analysis revealed it contained feldspar and olivine, minerals typically associated with volcanic eruptions. Mission scientists say the Martian soil is similar to volcanic soil on the flanks of Mauna Kea.

Curiosity landed near the Martian equator in August on a two-year mission. It'll be another month before it drills into its first rock. Then it's expected to head toward a mountain by year's end.

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