February 6, 2013
Curiosity Tests Out Its Drill On Mars
|NASA’s Curiosity robotic rover took a step closer to its historic first drilling Martian rocks when it tested its drilling system this past weekend. Curiosity conducted a "drill-on-rock checkout" on a rock designated “John Klein” in Gale Crater.|
The successful test by the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, is part of a series of tests to prepare for the first drilling in history to collect a sample of rock material on Mars.
In the image above (from NASA) the bit mark on the rock target called "John Klein" is clearly visible.
The image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's arm was taken with the camera positioned about 4 inches (10 centimeters) off the ground. It shows an area of John Klein about 3 inches (7.7 centimeters) wide. The length of the gray divot cut by the drill bit is about two-thirds of an inch (1.7 centimeters).
|Site of the "John Klein" rock in the Martian Gale Crater|
Image Source: NASA
Another preparatory test, called "mini drill," will be run before the full drilling takes place. The mini drill test will use both the rotary and percussive actions of the drill to generate a ring of rock powder around a hole. This will allow for evaluation of the material to see if it behaves as a dry powder suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms.
During its two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity's 10 science instruments to assess whether the Gale Crater location on Mars ever had conditions favorable for life.
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