|Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS|
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, veined rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.
The fresh hole, was drilled 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.
John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, said "This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America."
For the next several days, ground controllers will command 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 still was 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 (150 microns) 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.
For more about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl