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A bunch of engineers and scientists are working around the clock during the present two days to practice selecting targets, drilling them and analyzing them with Curiosity the way we will on Mars in only 45 days! Whenever we see rock targets that might provide interesting scientific infomation, the scientists discuss the merits of each potential target. Then we ask the engineers and rover planners if it is safe to sample those rocks so that we protect the rover and its instruments. If we get the green light, then we must prepare the instructions for Curiosity so that its computer will delivery the instructions to the instruments to conduct the activities exactly the way we intended.

It's a pretty complicated process, so that is why we are practicing a lot before we land.

More when we start day 2!

Author: Pan Conrad

We are getting ready for doing experiments on Mars after Curiosity lands at the field site in Gale Crater. It's quite exciting to realize we are only three and a half months from landing, and now we can really think about the environment we came to explore. The crater is full of interesting scientific opportunities, and it will be hard not to want to explore every interesting feature we find. But to get a look at the biggest possible picture of Mars history, we will have to focus and remember that Mt Sharp (the mound in the center of the crater) beckons.

Going to Mars with a big team is a bit like living out Star Trek for me-- we interact with each other, with the other payload investigations and with Mars on a daily basis for two years. We are certain to learn surprising things about not only Mars, but about ourselves as well. While we may not be physically present, our technology-- the extension of our senses will go a long way toward helping us imagine what it would be like to physically be in the field exploring another planet. While many of my colleagues have quite a bit of experience exploring Mars with the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, this is my first Mars mission, and even though I've been working on it for seven years, I am a freshman at this Mars Science Academy. This is one of the coolest things I will have a chance to do in my lifetime.

Author: Pan Conrad
Planetary scientist Susanne Douglas describes organisms that live in the salty pools in Badwater basin, pools that are similar to environments that are thought to have once existed on Mars.

The Mars and the Mojave Festival was held in Death Valley National Park from March 9-11, 2012. This festival celebrated planetary analogs: places on Earth that have environments that are (or are thought to be) similar to environments on other planets. In particular, this festival celebrated locations in Death Valley National Park where scientists and engineers come to learn more about the planet Mars. The festival was the result of a partnership between the National Park Service, NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover team, and the SETI Institute.

The festival opened with an introduction from Death Valley National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead, followed by a Keynote Address by Chris McKay - a member of the SAM team. His talk, entitled "Curiosity on Mars," gave visitors an overview of the Curiosity mission and what questions it will help us answer about our neighboring planet. He also spoke about SAM and how this instrument suite will contribute to the mission goals.

The festival also included guided field trips to planetary analog sites within the park, such as Badwater Basin, Ubehebe Crater, and Mars Hill, as well as an expo with booths and demonstrations from a number of different groups and organizations, including representation from the Mars Public Engagement Team and the SAM Education and Public Outreach Team.

The festival was very successful: there was an incredible amount of scientist and Park support for the event, and participants provided enthusiastically positive feedback. Planning is underway for the next analog festival. More information will be posted to this website once it is available.

Pictures of the festival taken by photographer Jack Freer are posted here: http://www.overlandphotography.us/Death-Valley/Mars-and-the-Mojave-Festival/22033992_vQmBzX#!p=1&n=25

Author: Andrea Jones
The SAM Planetary Protection team standing behind SAM.  Pictured from Left to Right: Jen Eigenbrode (Goddard), Andrew Steele (Carnegie Institution of Washington), Lauren Kerr (Carnegie Institution of Washington), and Danny Glavin (SAM PP lead, Goddard).

Andrew Steele (Carnegie Institution of Washington) taking a swab of the outer surface of the SAM solid sample inlet. The swab sampling of the SAM solid sample inlet tubes was done in the clean room for microbiological analyses to demonstrate that the SAM inlets were clean and satisfied the planetary protection requirements.

Welcome to the new online home for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite! We hope you enjoy exploring the website and learn more about SAM and SAM's team, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover, and find lots of new SAM images and videos and resources. Work is underway preparing new sections for the website, such as features that will lead you on a Martian Sample Adventure and guide you through SAM's engineering model. Come back soon to check out these features, to hear more news from the SAM team, and to learn more about Sample Analysis at Mars!

Author: Andrea Jones