NASA's Curiosity Rover: 1st Drilled Samples on Mars

NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Just Snagged Its 1st Drilled Samples Since 2016

NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars Just Snagged Its 1st Drilled Samples Since 2016

Curiosity rover made this drill hole in a rock named "Duluth".

A mechanical issue took the drill on Curiosity offline in December 2016.

The mission team thinks Curiosity can sort of sprinkle collected powder from the drill bit into the analytical instruments, but that method will have to be tested and demonstrated on the Red Planet. This image, captured by Curiosity's Mast Camera, is white balanced and contrast enhanced. This technique involved, known as the Feed Extended Drilling helps in keeping the drill elongated past 2 stabilizer posts, which are generally used in keeping the drill steady against the Martian rocks. But with impressive ingenuity, the team developed a new drilling technique which uses the rover's extended arm to drill in a freestyle manner. "We're thrilled that the result was so successful", he added.

A close-up image of a 2-inch-deep hole produced using a new drilling technique for NASA's Curiosity rover. The hole is about 0.6 inches (1.6 cm) wide.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity's capabilities to study Mars. The drill pierced two inches into the rock, allowing the rover to resume its task of seeing what's hiding inside the stones that litter the planet's surface.

"If all goes well and we can continue drilling, the science team hopes to learn how the ancient climate of the Gale crater and the outlook for life there changed over time", stated Ashwin Vasavada, a member of the NASA Curiosity Rover mission.

As we speak, according to NASA, the Mars Curiosity Rover is now making its way uphill along the Vera Rubin Ridge that is estimated to be loaded with red rocks that are likely to be filled with hematite, an iron dioxide that is only created in the presence of water. Fortunately, it was near enough to drill targets like Duluth to drive back down the ridge. Sunday's drill sample represents a quick taste of the region before Curiosity moves on.

Demonstrating that Curiosity's percussive drilling technique works is a milestone in itself.

The big Mars test of its new percussion drilling technique ended in a major success, with the robot snagging its first drilled sample in 18 months. "With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our testbed to iterate on the process". Interest's analyses of drilled rock samples have actually permitted the rover group to figure out that the robotic's landing website, the flooring of the 96-mile-wide (154 km) Wind Crater, hosted a habitable lake-and-stream system for long stretches billions of years back. With the mechanism that controls that drill movement broken, the team chose to see if they could use the drill without it, extending the drill bit and letting it drill "naked", without the help of the stabilizer bars.

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