Post by dbh on Jan 18, 2013 15:34:47 GMT 1
January 18, 2013 - The first drill sample ever collected on Mars will come from a rockbed shot through with unexpected veins of what appears to be the mineral gypsum.
Delighted members of the Curiosity science team announced Tuesday that the rover was now in a virtual "candy store" of scientific targets—the lowest point of Gale Crater, called Yellowknife Bay, is filled with many different materials that could have been created only in the presence of water. (Related: "Mars Has 'Oceans' of Water Inside?")
Project scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said during a press conference that the drill area has turned out "to be jackpot unit. Every place we drive exposes fractures and vein fills."
Mission scientists initially decided to visit the depression, a third of a mile from Curiosity's landing site, on a brief detour before heading to the large mountain at the middle of Gale Crater. But because of the richness of their recent finds, Grotzinger said it may be some months before they begin their trek to Mount Sharp.
The drilling, expected to start this month, will dig five holes about two inches (five centimeters) into bedrock the size of a throw rug and then feed the powder created to the rover's two chemistry labs for analysis.
The drill is the most complex device on the rover and is the last instrument to be used. Project manager Richard Cook, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that operating it posed the biggest mechanical challenge since Curiosity's high-drama landing. (Watch video of Curiosity's "Seven Minutes of Terror.")
A Watery Past?
That now desiccated Mars once had a significant amount of surface water is now generally accepted, but every new discovery of when and where water was present is considered highly significant.
Sources and more information:
• CuriousMars: Curiosity to Drill into 'Whole Different World'
As the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science team completes final assessments of the mission's first drilling target in the bedrock at Yellowknife Bay, Curiosity is roving through "a whole different world," uncovering evidence for rocks saturated with water and other diverse and unexpected aqueous clues that hint of an ancient and very wet...
• NASA's Curiosity rover ready to start drilling Mars rocks, report mission scientists - @usatoday
Named after the late JPL engineer John Klein, this view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. NASA JPL-Caltech MSSS by Dan Vergano USA TODAY dvergano, USA TODAY by Dan Vergano USA TODAY dvergano, USA TODAY Filed Under USA Today tech NASA's Curiosity rover is ready...
• Curiosity Rover planning to drill into Martian rock for the first time, search for evidence of water
• Mars rover finds more evidence of watery past in veined rocks
• Mars rover Curiosity will use drill for first time