Hole produced by the Curiosity rover's drill. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Hole produced by the Curiosity rover’s drill.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has swallowed for analysis bits and pieces of powdered rock collected by drilling into a sandstone target.

The material has been delivered to laboratory instruments inside the robot. Study of those powdered sample materials will be performed during pauses in the rover’s ongoing trek across the Martian terrain.

Controllers of the one-ton mobile machine are readying the robot to soon move on toward its long-term destination on a mountain slope, driving toward Mount Sharp, the layered mountain at the middle of Mars’ Gale Crater.

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager provided this nighttime view of a hole produced by the rover's drill and, inside the hole, a line of scars produced by the rover's rock-zapping laser. The camera used its own white-light LEDs to illuminate the scene on May 13, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager provided this nighttime view of a hole produced by the rover’s drill and, inside the hole, a line of scars produced by the rover’s rock-zapping laser. The camera used its own white-light LEDs to illuminate the scene on May 13, 2014.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Sharpshooting

Other instruments on the rover have inspected the target rock’s interior exposed in the hole and in drill cuttings heaped around the hole.

The instrument that fires a laser from atop the rover’s mast – ChemCam — zapped a series of points inside the hole with sharpshooter accuracy.

Camera and spectrometer inspection of the cuttings has also been done.

The mission’s two previous rock-drilling sites – done at mudstone targets — yielded evidence last year of an ancient lakebed environment with key chemical elements and a chemical energy source that long ago provided conditions favorable for microbial life.

 

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