Curiosity Confirms First Drilled Mars Sample
Ladies and gentlemen, today is an exciting day in planetary exploration. For the first time in our history we have taken a sample of the interior of a rock on another planet. In this particular picture, you are looking at the powder drilled out by the Curiosity rover on Mars. This is the first time such an experiment has been conducted off Earth.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Scott McCloskey, the drill systems engineer for Curiosity had this to say on the matter, “Seeing the powder from the drill in the scoop allows us to verify for the first time the drill collected a sample as it bore into the rock. Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown.”
For geologists and planetary scientists everywhere, this is a monumentally important step in exploration. The rock sample came from rock named “John Klein,” in this case, a very fine sedimentary rock. Curiosity bored a 2.5 inch hole into this rock because it could very well contain evidence of wet environmental conditions that are thought to have existed on the surface many years ago. Of course, confirming such conditions would go a long way to providing viable evidence that ancient Mars could have had environmental conditions favorable to microbial life.
So, what’s next? Curiosity will sift the powder to keep particles only 150 microns across and smaller. After this process, the lucky particles will be delivered to different systems onboard the rover for testing. After we receive preliminary results, we will… run more tests.
As a point of reference, the scoop is 1.8 inches wide. This image was taken on February 20th, which marks Curiosity’s 193rd day on the Martian Surface. The image has also undergone a process called ‘white-balance’ which depicts the colors as it would be viewed on Earth. A raw-color version of this image (meaning, what it looks like on Mars) can be seen linked below.
Sources and further reading:
First Curiosity Drilling Sample in the Scoop
NASA Rover Confirms First Drilled Mars Rock Sample