February 5, 2013
“Drill-on-rock Checkout” Performed On Mars
The bit of the rock-sampling drill on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity left its mark on a Martian rock this weekend during brief testing of the tool's percussive action.The successful activity, called a "drill-on-rock checkout" by the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, is part of a series of tests to prepare for the first drilling in history to collect a sample of rock material on Mars.
Another preparatory test, called "mini drill," will precede the full drilling. The mini drill test will use both the rotary and percussive actions of the drill to generate a ring of rock powder around a hole. This will allow for evaluation of the material to see if it behaves as a dry powder suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms.
During a two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity's 10 science instruments to assess whether the study area in Gale Crater on Mars ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
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