Curiosity Shows Off Delivered Materials Of Martian Rock Sample
February 20, 2013

Curiosity Shows Off Delivered Materials Of Martian Rock Sample

[Watch Video: Curiosity Drills - Animation]    [Watch Video: Drilling Demonstration]

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

NASA released during a teleconference today photos of its Curiosity rover's first-ever sample collected from inside a rock on Mars.

Curiosity used its drill to help it collect a sample from inside a Martian rock for the first time earlier this month. During this task, Curiosity drilled about a 0.63-inch wide by 2.5-inch deep hole into a rock known as "John Klein," on February 8. The rock was named in memory of a Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) deputy project manager who died in 2011.

The space agency selected John Klein rock for its first sample drilling because they believe it could hold evidence of wet environment conditions in Mars' past.

NASA spent several days with Curiosity to perform a multi-step analysis of the rock sample, which they believed could have contained evidence of ancient life on the Red Planet.

The space agency provided new images that confirm it has successfully obtained the first sample from the interior of a rock on another planet. In the above image, you can see the scoop sample Curiosity made sitting inside a cup-like device on the side of the rover.

"Seeing the powder from the drill in the scoop allows us to verify for the first time the drill collected a sample as it bore into the rock," said JPL's Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer for Curiosity. "Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown."

Now, the powder will be delivered to CHIMRA, and shaken once or twice over a sieve that screens out particles larger than 0.006-inch across.

Small portions of the sieved sample will be delivered through inlet ports on top of the rover deck into the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. These instruments will help determine whether the samples hold clues for evidence of water in Mars' past.

NASA said that it has adjusted its processing and delivery plant to reduce use of mechanical vibration, due to information gained during testing. The 150-micron screen in one of the two test versions of CHIMRA became partially detached after extensive use. The team added precautions for use of Curiosity's sampling system while continuing to study the cause and ramifications of the separation.

Curiosity has 10 science instruments onboard to help it investigate whether an area within Mars' Gale Crater has ever had conditions favorable to host microbial life.