Preparatory Drill Test Performed on Mars

Preparatory Test of Drilling on Mars Generates Rock Powder In an activity called the "mini drill test," NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its drill to generate this ring of powdered rock for inspection in advance of the rover's first full drilling. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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February 07, 2013

PASADENA, Calif. - The drill on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used both percussion and rotation to bore about 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) into a rock on Mars and generate cuttings for evaluation in advance of the rover's first sample-collection drilling.

Completion of this "mini drill" test in preparation for full drilling was confirmed in data from Mars received late Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. If the drill cuttings on the ground around the fresh hole pass visual evaluation as suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms, the rover team plans to proceed with commanding the first full drilling in coming days.

An image of the hole and surrounding cuttings produced by the mini drill test is online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA16760 .

The test was performed on a patch of flat, vein-bearing rock called "John Klein." The locations of earlier percussion-only testing and planned sample-collection drilling are also on John Klein. Pre-drilling observations of this rock yielded indications of one or more episodes of wet environmental conditions. The team plans to use Curiosity's laboratory instruments to analyze sample powder from inside the rock to learn more about the site's environmental history.

The planned full drilling will be the first rock drilling on Mars to collect a sample of material for analysis.

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.

More information about Curiosity is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ .

You can follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

2013-051

Images

Close-Up After Preparatory Test of Drilling on Mars

After an activity called the "mini drill test" by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera recorded this close-up view of the results during the 180th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Feb. 6, 2013). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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Before-and-After Blink of Curiosity 'Mini Drill' into Mars Rock

A blink pair of images taken before and after Curiosity performed a "mini drill" test on a Martian rock shows changes resulting from that activity. The resulting hole and surrounding pile of drill cuttings are not the only changes. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
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