SAM Cups on Mars
The picture below is a view looking into the 74 cups on SAM when it was on Earth in the NASA cleanroom, and the cups were clean and empty. As I write this blog, 29 of the white-colored quartz cups have been filled with Martian sand or powdered rock material from our drill campaigns. Close your eyes and imagine looking now and seeing 29 dark cups randomly scattered around the two rings – dark because they contain ashes of the sand or powdered sample left over from some very hot (1000°C or 1832°F) experiments on Mars.
Some of SAM’s cups are filled with a calibrant material – material of a very-well-known composition, brought from Earth, that allows scientists to make sure the SAM instruments are functioning properly. One of the cups containing solid calibrant material (a metal cup on the inner ring, on the left side of this picture) was punctured and analyzed on Mars. The analysis confirmed that all SAM instruments are performing as they should – SAM is “nominal" as we say in "NASA-speak".
We still have 30 empty quartz cups ready to receive sample on Mars – enough for another four years (two martian years) of experiments, at the rate we are currently analyzing samples. We will use the two additional solid calibration cups on the inner ring to continue monitoring the performance of our “inner” oven, and we can calibrate our “outer” oven three times.
The nine metal cups at the top of this picture are for wet chemistry experiments. We have not used them yet – stay tuned for more exciting news as we continue to collect and analyze samples, and do our first wet chemistry experiments on Mars!
To summarize, right now SAM has 29 cups filled + 30 cups empty + 1 calibration cup used + 5 calibration cups ready + 9 wet chemistry cups ready = 74 cups total. It has 30 cups used and 44 cups ready for future, exciting SAM analysis on Mars!