Curiosity Tests Out Its Drill On Mars

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Drilling Test on Mars

 Mars Curiosity
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. 
NASA’s Curiosity rover recently took another step to the first drilling on Mars, as its drilling system was tested this past weekend. The robotics rover conducted a "drill-on-rock checkout" on a a Martian rock in the Gale Crater. The brief test of the drill’s percussive action in a back and forth motion was part of a series of tests to determine if the rover’s drill is ready for full operation.

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).

John Klein Rock to be drilled on Mars
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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