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Mars rover eyes 'man-made' objects in Martian dirt

Published on Oct 19, 2012 6:34 AM
This image from the ChemCam: Remote Micro-Imager on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity taken on Oct 8, 2012 shows a small object on the ground beside the rover. -- PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (Nasa) Mars rover has swallowed its first scoopful of dirt from the Red Planet's surface - and found some bright-colored objects that experts briefly thought might be man-made, the United States (US) space agency said on Thursday.

In an update on Curiosity's two-and-a-half month old mission, Nasa said its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, deep in the car-sized rover's belly, will analyse the soil to learn more about its make-up.

Some experts wondered if one of the bright-colored objects - seen on a photo of a scoop hole in the Martian soil - could be man-made, like an object seen earlier this month thought to be plastic from the rover itself.

"We began to see some bright flecks in the scoop areas," Curiosity's project scientist told reporters in Pasadena, California, adding: "The science team started calling them schmutz."

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