Mars rover Curiosity drills into bedrock

ScienceNASA Mars Exploration ProgramJet Propulsion LaboratoryNASA

For the first time, a robot has drilled into a rock on Mars and collected a sample, and scientists are patting themselves on the back.  The likelihood of high-fives also is extremely high.

The Curiosity rover has extended its robotic arm and used the drill carried there to bore a hole 0.63 inches wide and 2.5 inches deep into John Klein, as the Martian rock was dubbed. Within that hole, scientists believe, is evidence of the wet environments that existed on Mars eons ago.

But the successful use of the drill alone has scientists in a tizzy. This means that Curiosity is “a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars,” said John Grunsfeld, with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in a news release.

“This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August,” he said.

Twitter geeks were applauding:  “Holey Mars exploration Batman!” tweeted Sustainable2.

Developing the tools to tackle “unpredictable rocks” in unknown terrain required a lot of painstaking work beforehand, said Louise Jandura in Saturday’s news release.

Jandura, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, said, “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.”

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-- Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times

Follow Amy Hubbard on Twitter: @AmyTheHub

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