May 20, 2013
Curiosity Rover Drills For A Second Time On Martian Rock
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A little more than three months ago NASA´s Curiosity rover drilled into the Martian surface for the first time, collecting a sample from a rock called “John Klein.” On Sunday, Curiosity was at it again, this time drilling into the “Cumberland” rock.
Portions of the drill sample should be delivered to Curiosity´s onboard laboratory for further analysis in the coming days, according to a NASA statement. This marks only the second time that an instrument has drilled into a rock on a planet other than Earth.
The new drilling site, Cumberland, is very much like John Klein, especially since it only lies about nine feet farther west. Both rocks are within a shallow depression known as “Yellowknife Bay.”
Sunday´s experiment consisted of drilling a 0.6-inch-diameter hole about 2.6 inches deep. The science team behind the project expects to use analysis of the material from Cumberland and compare it with findings from John Klein. The preliminary findings from analysis of the John Klein sample indicate that the location once, long ago, had environmental conditions favorable for the support of microbial life. These conditions included key elemental ingredients for life, a proper energy gradient that could have been exploited by microbes, and signs of life-bearing water.
After the Curiosity team conducts a few more high-priority observations in Yellowknife Bay, they plan to then begin a long trek to the base of Mount Sharp, which sits at the middle of Gale Crater.
The Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover are managed by Caltech´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. JPL operates the project for NASA´s Science Mission Directorate in Washington DC.