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Mars rover to ‘sandblast’ sampling equipment

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WASHINGTON — NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is parked at a sand pit and ready to scoop up soil to clean and test its geological sampling hardware, the US space agency said Thursday.

These will be the first solid samples put through Curiosity’s high-tech collection and processing tool set — a task central to realizing the mission’s goal of determining whether Mars ever harbored life, NASA officials said.

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Project team members said they were excited to get started, but planned to proceed with caution.

“Because this is such an important capability, kind of the keystone of the rover mission, we’re being deliberately, incredibly careful,” said Daniel Limonadi, lead systems engineer, on a conference call with reporters.

“We’re taking a lot of extra steps to make sure we know what’s going on,” added mission manager Michael Watkins.

Step one, they explained, will be to use sand to scrape off the earth-born film that would taint any future testing.

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“On Earth, even though we make this hardware super, squeaky clean when it’s assembled and worked on, by virtue of just being on Earth, you get an oily film that is impossible to avoid,” Limonadi said.

To get rid of it, Curiosity will take some sand and vibrate it vigorously across all the instrument over several hours, “to effectively sand blast those surfaces.”

The process will be repeated three times over the next 10 days, with stops between to verify everything is going well.

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Before grabbing that first scoop, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, scientists have analyzed images of the sand.

Once the cleaning is done, Curiosity will scoop up its first sample for geological analysis.

Once Curiosity is done with the work at its current location, dubbed “Rocknest,” it will then travel some 328 feet (100 meters) towards its next destination, an spot named “Glenelg.”

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At that spot, located at an intersection of three types of terrain, NASA experts plan to drill a rock and analyze the content.

Curiosity is on a two-year mission to investigate whether it is possible to live on Mars and to learn whether conditions there might have been able to support life in the past.

The $2.5 billion craft landed in Gale Crater on August 6, opening a new chapter in the history of interplanetary exploration.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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2020 Election

Scientist who correctly predicted 2018 midterms says Democrats can win 18 more seats in 2020

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The political scientist who correctly predicted the 2018 elections says Democrats left seats on the table in the midterms -- and can win them in 2020.

Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, was interviewed by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on "The Last Word."

"Could you explain to the viewers how it is you determine what it was that actually did win a given congressional district?" O'Donnell asked. "When there is this common belief that, oh, well, the Democrats ran because the Republicans threatened their health care and so some swing voters switched over from Republican voting to democratic voting."

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2020 Election

Maddow reveals how Chinese group Falun Gong went from disrupting events to running a shadow campaign for Trump

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Tuesday detailed the remarkable journey of the group Falun Gong shifting from disrupting White House events to dominating the conversation on Facebook.

Maddow hilariously recounted the "major embarrassment" for the George W. Bush White House when a protester interrupted remarks by President of China Hu Jintao.

The protester was credentialed to cover the event for the Epoch Times, which is controlled by Falun Gong.

"Well, NBC News has a scoop out today about that group, about how that paper, the Epoch Times has transformed itself a lot in the Trump era. It’s a real revelation, this reporting from NBC News," Maddow said. "I mean, Epoch Times and its media group, they’ve made themselves into a whole new thing entirely and in a very big way."

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CNN

Trump’s failed Federal Reserve nominee doesn’t even know what the interest rate was 10 years ago

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On Tuesday, CNN's Chris Cuomo invited on Stephen Moore, supply-side economist and President Donald Trump's failed pick for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, to discuss the state of the administration — and Moore made a hilariously wrong remark about interest rates that suggests the country was better off without him.

"There's no greatest economy ever," said Cuomo. "You know these things ... he's doing well. He's not doing better than we've ever seen before, and you guys got the benefits of juicing the economy with this tax cut. Fair point?"

"Let me say this, I think it's a pretty darn good economy," said Moore. "I'll cite a few statistics. It's a pretty darn good one. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years ... and for blacks and Hispanics and women."

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