NASA rover drills into its first Martian rock

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:33am IST

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is pictured in this February 3, 2013 handout self-portrait obtained by Reuters February 9, 2013. REUTERS/NASA/Handout.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is pictured in this February 3, 2013 handout self-portrait obtained by Reuters February 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/NASA/Handout.

Related Topics

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - The Mars rover Curiosity drilled into the Martian surface for the first time as part of an effort to learn if the planet most like Earth in the solar system ever had conditions to support microbial life, NASA said on Saturday.

Pictures beamed back to Earth on Saturday showed a hole about 0.63 inches (1.6 cm) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock that appears to have been in contact with water.

The drilling, which took place on Friday, produced a small pile of powder that will be fed into two onboard laboratory instruments to determine the rock's chemical makeup.

"First drilling on Mars to collect a sample for science is a success," NASA posted on Twitter.

Engineers spent days preparing to use Curiosity's drill, including boring practice holes earlier in the week. Previous Mars probes have had tools to scrape and grind into rock, but never a drill to collect interior samples.

Curiosity's first drill target was a rock laced with veins of what appear to be water-deposited minerals. The rover, which landed on Mars on August 6 for a two-year mission, is looking for geologic and chemical conditions needed to support and preserve microbial life.

Engineers do not yet know exactly how much powder was produced, but are confident there is enough for a planned instrument cleaning and lab analysis, Avi Okon, a drill engineer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

NASA's lead scientist, John Grunsfeld, said using the drill was "the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August."

Curiosity's ultimate target is a 3-mile- (5-km) high mound of layered sediment rising from the floor of the Gale Crater landing site.

The drill is the last of the rover's 10 science instruments to be tested.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Top News

TOP SHOWCASE

Mideast Conflict

Mideast Conflict

Israel says ready to extend short Gaza truce; many bodies pulled from rubble.  Full Article 

Cricket Controversy

Cricket Controversy

We're hurting at Jadeja punishment, says Dhoni.  Full Article 

Tax Regime

Tax Regime

New govt promises low and stable tax regime for economic revival  Full Article 

Health Alert

Health Alert

India battles to contain "brain fever" as deaths reach almost 570.  Full Article 

Standoff At WTO

Standoff At WTO

India threatens to derail WTO deal, prompts angry U.S. rebuke.  Full Article 

Army in Islamabad

Army in Islamabad

Wary Pakistan puts military in charge of capital's security  Full Article 

Downed MH17

Downed MH17

Britain says highly likely MH17 shot down by Russian-supplied missile.  Full Article 

Drogba's Back

Drogba's Back

Chelsea re-sign striker Drogba  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage