NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample












NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample

Charles F. Bolden, Administrator
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Lori B. Garver, Deputy Administrator
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PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's
Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its
robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from
its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to
collect a sample on Mars.

The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6
centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of
fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity
beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone
wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory
instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill.

"The most
advanced planetary robot ever designed now is a fully operating analytical
laboratory on Mars," said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for the
agency's Science Mission Directorate. "This is the biggest milestone
accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August,
another proud day for America."

For the next several days, ground
controllers will command the rover's arm to carry out a series of steps to
process the sample, ultimately delivering portions to the instruments inside.

"We commanded the first full-depth drilling, and we believe we have
collected sufficient material from the rock to meet our objectives of hardware
cleaning and sample drop-off," said Avi Okon, drill cognizant engineer at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena.

Rock powder generated during
drilling travels up flutes on the bit. The bit assembly has chambers to hold the
powder until it can be transferred to the sample-handling mechanisms of the
rover's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA)

Before the rock powder is analyzed, some will be used to scour
traces of material that may have been deposited onto the hardware while the
rover still was on Earth, despite thorough cleaning before launch.

"We'll take the powder we acquired and swish it around to scrub the
internal surfaces of the drill bit assembly," said JPL's Scott McCloskey, drill
systems engineer. "Then we'll use the arm to transfer the powder out of the
drill into the scoop, which will be our first chance to see the acquired

"Building a tool to interact forcefully with unpredictable
rocks on Mars required an ambitious development and testing program," said JPL's
Louise Jandura, chief engineer for Curiosity's sample system."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."

Inside the
sample-handling device, the powder will be vibrated once or twice over a sieve
that screens out any particles larger than six-thousandths of an inch (150
microns) across. Small portions of the sieved sample will fall through ports on
the rover deck into the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument and the
Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. These instruments then will begin the
much-anticipated detailed analysis.

The rock Curiosity drilled is called
"John Klein" in memory of a Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager who
died in 2011. Drilling for a sample is the last new activity for NASA's Mars
Science Laboratory Project, which is using the car-size Curiosity rover to
investigate whether an area within Mars' Gale Crater has ever offered an
environment favorable for life.

JPL manages the project for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more about the mission,

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