NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to collect a sample of Martian bedrock that might offer evidence of a long-gone wet environment.
The rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.
The robot bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars to collect the sample from its interior.
The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches
(6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to
For the next several days, ground controllers will command the rover's arm to carry out a series of steps to process the sample, ultimately delivering portions to the instruments inside.
"We commanded the first full-depth drilling, and we believe we have collected sufficient material from the rock to meet our objectives of hardware cleaning and sample drop-off," said Avi Okon, drill cognizant engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena.
Rock powder generated during drilling travels up flutes on the bit.
The bit assembly has chambers to hold the powder until it can be transferred to the sample-handling mechanisms of the rover's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) device.
Before the rock powder is analyzed, some will be used to scour traces of material that may have been deposited onto the hardware while the rover still was on Earth, despite thorough cleaning before launch.
Inside the sample-handling device, the powder will be vibrated once or twice over a sieve that screens out any particles larger than six-thousandths of an inch (150 microns) across.
Small portions of the sieved sample will fall through ports on the rover deck into the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. These instruments then will begin the much-anticipated detailed analysis.
The rock Curiosity drilled is called "John Klein" in memory of a Mars
Science Laboratory deputy project manager who died in 2011. (ANI)