Science Laboratory, Curiosity, Drills the First Hole on Mars
February 10, 2013 • 1:51PM

For the first time, scientists will soon be able to analyze subsurface material on Mars. Although remarkable discoveries about the geological and water history of Mars have been made by the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, and also, preliminarily, by Curiosity, so much of Mars is covered with a thin layer of dust, going beneath the surface could unearth whole new histories, by examining subsurface soil and the inside of rocks.

NASA announced today that it has just received the report from Curiosity that the rover has succeded in drilling a 2.5-inch-deep hole in to a fine-grained sedementary rock, and has transferred a small amount of the rock powder into its drill. The drill bit assembly will hold on to the powder until it can be transferred to a preparatory sampling assembly. It will then be transferred into a scoop, which will deliver a sample weighing less than an aspirin to the rover's highly sophisticated sample analysis instruments.

A shallower, practice drilling was carried out (a "mini drill test") on Feb. 6th, the rover's 180th Martian day, and photos taken by the rover's cameras showed a pile of pulverized rock near the perfectly round hole.

Curiosity team members have stressed how slowly and carefully each of the rover's scientific/mechanical experiments must be carried out. Louise Jandura, JPL's chief engineer for the sample system, explained that "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."