A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of the SAM suite of instruments is inside a chamber that, when closed, can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars.
Many weeks of testing are often needed to develop and refine sequences of operations that SAM uses for making specific measurements on Mars. This was the case with preparation to pull a volume of gas from the atmosphere and extract the heavy noble gas xenon. SAM's measurements of different types of xenon in the Martian atmosphere provide clues about the planet's history.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, built and operates SAM.
More information about Curiosity is online at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.