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Mars soil like Hawaiian soil, NASA rover discovers

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IN SPACE - AUGUST 5: In this handout image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the evening of August 5, 2012 PDT and transmitted to Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The MSL Rover named Curiosity is equipped with a nuclear-powered lab capable of vaporizing rocks and ingesting soil, measuring habitability, and whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbe. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)

Credit:

NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on Aug. 5, has performed the first in-depth analysis of soil on the Red Planet, Reuters reported.

According to David Bish, a researcher with Indiana University, the dirt is similar to the "weathered soils on the flanks of Mauna Kea in Hawaii,” Space.com reported.

In scientific terms, the soil is mineralogically similar to basaltic materials, with large amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine, Reuters reported. About half the soil is non-crystalline material, such as volcanic glass.

“The mineralogy of Mars’ soil has been a source of conjecture until now," Curiosity scientist David Vaniman of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., said, according to Reuters. "This interest isn't just academic. Soils on planets' surfaces are a reflection of surface exposure processes and history, with information on present and past climates.”

Curiosity dug up the soil from the inside of a giant impact crater near the Martian equator, Reuters reported. Around the end of the year, the rover will drive six miles to study materials at the base of Mount Sharp, a 3.4-mile-high mountain in the center of the crater, Space.com reported.

According to Space.com:

Mars-orbiting spacecraft have spotted signs that Mount Sharp's foothills were exposed to liquid water long ago.

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