Mars Rover Drills Into the Martian Surface

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2013-02-15 Print this article Print
Curiosity Rover's Self Portrait

Curiosity Rover's Self Portrait

This rectangular version of Curiosity combines dozens of exposures that the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) has taken at the drilling site.


NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This marks the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments on the planet. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder the drill collects. For the past week, ground controllers have commanded the rover's arm to carry out a series of steps to process the sample, ultimately delivering portions to the instruments inside. Before the rock powder is analyzed, some will be used to scour traces of material that may have been deposited onto the hardware while the rover was still on Earth, despite thorough cleaning before launch. Inside the sample-handling device, the powder will be vibrated once or twice over a sieve that screens out any particles larger than six-thousandths of an inch across. Small portions of the sieved sample will fall through ports on the rover deck into the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. These instruments then will begin the much-anticipated detailed analysis.


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