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Scientists use a Mars-like environment created in Maryland to test key rover equipment

Like its twin that’s busy exploring Mars aboard the rover Curiosity, the device known as SAM II spends its days as if it were 200 million miles away, in a very different environment than our own.  Temperatures around the instrument plunge to minus 130ºF (-90°C), the air pressure is one percent of Earth’s, and the atmosphere it sits in consists largely of carbon dioxide.  But this second SAM—short for Sample Analysis on Mars—resides in suburban Maryland, inside a tightly controlled chamber where it plays a little-known but essential role as a test instrument for the Curiosity mission to Mars.



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