NASA Curiosity rover takes a bite of Martian soil

Engineers work on a model of the Mars rover Curiosity at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Engineers work on a model of the Mars rover Curiosity at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 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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