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Curiosity Rover Drills Into Martian Clay Hoping To Analyze Rock Powder

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Curiosity ticks off another item on its to-do list: the rover has successfully drilled a hole in Gale Crater on April 9, according to NASA.

Ever since its launch almost eight years ago, the lone rover doesn't fail to provide interesting information about Mars. In September 2018, it took a panorama shot of the Red Planet. Earlier, it baffled everyone with a picture of a supposed alien-like creature.

Taking pictures, however, is not the only work of Curiosity. As part of the life exploration program on Mars, its job is to help tell the scientists whether the planet can sustain life.

The drilling of the hole then becomes a significant moment and a potential breakthrough everyone has been waiting for.

Let The Drilling Begin

This isn't the first time Curiosity rover drilled a hole on Mars. By 2018, the rover already made 16 holes on the planet.

There's something special about this, however.

The target for the drilling wasn't random. NASA already determined the landing site even while the rover was still in orbit.

Called the Gale Crater, it measured more than 90 miles in diameter. At the heart of it is Mount Sharp, which stands about 3.4 miles by Earth standards.

The mountain’s stratification revealed to NASA that the landform could be a remnant of a series of deposit buildup that occurred after a massive impact over 3 billion years ago. This event also created the crater.

They also believed that these layers contained minerals and other compounds that can tell more about the planet’s origins and the viability of life.

To do it, the rover has to dig a hole into the target site called Aberlady. It is within a clay-bearing unit on the slope of the mountain.

What’s Next?

Based on NASA observations, the drilling into the rock was easy. It didn’t need any percussion. When the rover pulled the drill from the hole, the drilled block rose by at least a centimeter.

The tailings of the drill revealed a clumpier substance, although the scientists still don’t know what it is. Some of the members of the team expressed concern that the rover might have drilled into a weak layer underneath the clay.

It could then affect the amount of the sample that is available for testing. The rover needs to drop the portion of the sample to its onboard instruments for possible characterization.

“Based on the CheMin results, we’ll either continue with our typical SAM analyses or make decisions on whether to proceed in a different direction, perhaps literally,” updated the mission team on April 10.

Either way, Rover will continue to do its work and hopefully weather the many challenges.

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