This full-resolution image from NASA's Curiosity shows the turret of tools at the end of the rover's extended robotic arm on Aug. 20, 2012. The Navigation Camera captured this view. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover set another milestone on Wednesday as images sent by the spacecraft have confirmed it successfully drilled below the red planet's surface and collected rock samples that will now be analyzed by its on-board lab.
The rover's drill is the last system to be tested since it landed in the Gale Crater in August, according to NASA. Today's development is another step forward on Curiosity's mission to find evidence of extinct life on Mars.
"Seeing the powder from the drill in the scoop allows us to verify for the first time the drill collected a sample as it bore into the rock," said JPL's Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer for Curiosity. "Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown."
On February 8, Curiosity drilled a 2.5-inch hole on the Martian bedrock where it gathered the samples, the next step is to strain the sample and place some of the powdered rock inside the rover's analytical instruments.
The samples come from a rock named after John Klein, a Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager who died in 2011. The Klein rock was chosen because it may hold clues that will help scientists determine if wet environments existed on Mars.