At the center of this image from NASA's Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called "John Klein" where the rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The Mars Curiosity rover has drilled into the bedrock of the Red Planet and has made history as the first robot to penetrate beyond the planet's surface, according to a NASA announcement.
"The most advanced planetary robot ever designed is now a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars," said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America."
Images beamed from Curiosity to Earth on Saturday, show a .63 inch wide and 2.5 inch deep hole in a patch of bedrock. Scientists believe the rock holds key evidence about extinct wet environments on Mars. The rover will use its instruments to analyze the findings in pursuit of that evidence.
"Building a tool to interact forcefully with unpredictable rocks on Mars required an ambitious development and testing program," said JPL's Louise Jandura, chief engineer for Curiosity's sample system. "To get to the point of making this hole in a rock on Mars, we made eight drills and bored more than 1,200 holes in 20 types of rock on Earth."
The rock drilled is now called "John Klein" in honor of the Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager who died in 2011. This mission is the latest that NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project has undertaken with the Curiosity rover to uncover if Mars' Gale Crater was ever suitable for life.
Curiosity was launched in November 2011 and landed on Mars successfully in August 2012.
An animation of the drilling can be seen below.