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D-day on Mars!: First Robotic Drilling on the Red Planet

Curiosity rover self-portrait at drill site. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity rover has 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.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

For the first time in history, a robot has drilled into Mars to collect a sample for detailed analysis.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has 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.

As a next step, ground controllers will soon command the rover’s arm to carry out a series of steps to process the sample, ultimately delivering portions of the specimen to the instruments inside.

The newly drilled hole is about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep. The rock drilled into is 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.

In a NASA press statement, John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, said:

“The most advanced planetary robot ever designed now is a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars…this is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America.”

By Leonard David

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