New Rock-Drilling Method in 'Mars Yard' Test
This photo taken in the "Mars Yard" at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, on Aug. 1, 2017, shows a step in development of possible alternative techniques that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover might be able to use to resume drilling into rocks on Mars.
In late 2016, after Curiosity's drill had collected sample material from 15 Martian rocks in four years, the drill's feed mechanism ceased working reliably. That motorized mechanism moved the bit forward or back with relation to stabilizer posts on either side of the bit. In normal drilling by Curiosity, the stabilizers were positioned on the target rock first, and then the feed mechanism extended the rotation-percussion bit into the rock.
In the alternative technique seen here, called "feed-extended drilling," the test rover's stabilizers are not used to touch the rock. The bit is advanced into the rock by motion of the robotic arm rather than the drill's feed mechanism. Compare the stabilizers' position in this image to a sequence of images taken by Curiosity while drilling a Martian rock in 2013.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.