LOS ANGELES - Nasa’s Mars rover has swallowed its first scoopful of dirt from the Red Planet’s surface - and found some bright-colored objects that experts briefly thought might be man-made, the US space agency said Thursday. In an update on Curiosity’s two-and-a-half month old mission, NASA said its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument, deep in the car-sized rover’s belly, will analyze the soil to learn more about its make-up.

Some experts wondered if one of the bright-colored objects - seen on a photo of a scoop hole in the Martian soil - could be man-made, like an object seen earlier this month thought to be plastic from the rover itself.  “We began to see some bright flecks in the scoop areas,” Curiosity’s project scientist told reporters in Pasadena, California, adding: “The science team started calling them schmutz.” Some suggested they could be man-made, but following discussions between scientists and engineers, there was a “strong consensus” that they were indigenous to Mars.