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From "follow the water" to "follow the carbon"? How Curiosity will study building blocks of life on Mars By Michael Schirber Space.com
The Mars Science Laboratory is on its way to the Red Planet, and its rover Curiosity should touch down next summer. If the mission hits pay dirt and comes across organic material, then one instrument in particular has the chemical tools for studying these building blocks of life.
The instrument is called Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM (or "Samantha" to those who built her). As the name makes clear, SAM is there to analyze samples taken from the surface and from the atmosphere. It uses sophisticated chemical lab equipment packed into the size of a microwave oven.