There is a reason that rock hounds carry those little hammers. They really like cracking open rocks to see what is inside. It can tell them a lot about where the rock came from and what has been going on around it since its creation. Now, for the first time, human science and engineering has successfully done this robotically on Mars. As the engineer narrating this video update from NASA says, this is a "big event" (transcript is out in the tall grass).

The engineers and scientists at JPL have now fully tested every capability that the Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity Rover possess. The plucky robot has passed every test with flying colors and has, incidentally to all the tests, already gathered a great deal of groundbreaking scientific information.

Now, however, the fully focused, opportunistic scientific investigation of Gale Crater and Mount Sharp, apparently an ancient seascape, can begin. Exciting times in planetary science are upon us.

For all of my Mars diaries and all things Mars on Daily Kos go to Kossacks on Mars.


I'm Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory and this is the Curiosity Rover Report.

We began our first drilling campaign at the site we named John Klein. John Klein is an area that has a set of flat, platy rocks that are perfect for the first use of the drill. We were able to place the arm safely and drill vertically down into the rock to collect as much sample as possible.

We started by making a small divot to test the hammering mechanism in the drill. This worked perfectly so we proceeded on to make a mini-hole. Our mini-drill test drilled 2 cm down into the rock. We compared the tailings created by the mini-drill to the extensive set of test rocks that we've drilled here on Earth at JPL and determined that the materials we see on Mars are safe to ingest into the system.

After these preparations, we were all very excited to move on to the big event. We drilled 6.5 cm down into the rock. We used the camera on the end of the arm to take pictures.

Here we see two holes. The first on the right is the mini-drill hole. In the center of the picture we have the full hole. The gray tailings tell us that there is something different about the inside of the rock than the surface of the rock.

In the coming weeks, one of the things that we are trying to do with this first hole is to use this gray powder that we collect to clean the internal surfaces of the drill. We do that by moving the arm and pushing the powder around.

This has been your Curiosity Rover Report. Check back for more updates.  

Originally posted to Astro Kos on Sat Feb 16, 2013 at 01:10 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech and Kossacks on Mars.

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