The Gas Chromatograph (GC) is used to separate out individual gases from a complex mixture into molecular components. The resulting gas flow is analyzed in the mass spectrometer with a mass range of 2-535 Daltons.
The SAM also has three subsystems: the 'Chemical separation and processing laboratory', for enrichment and derivatization of the organic molecules of the sample; the sample manipulation system (SMS) for transporting powder delivered from the MSL drill to a SAM inlet and into one of 74 sample cups. The SMS then moves the sample to the SAM oven to release gases by heating to up to 1000oC; and the pumps subsystem to purge the separators and analysers.
9 November 2012: A pinch of fine sand and dust became the first solid Martian sample deposited into the SAM. The sample came from the patch of windblown material called Rocknest, which had provided a sample previously for mineralogical analysis by CheMin instrument.
3 December 2012: NASA reports SAM has detected water molecules, chlorine and sulphur. Hints of organic compounds couldn't be ruled out as contamination from Curiosity itself, however.