The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Ready, set, drill: NASA's Curiosity rover being readied to begin drilling into a Martian rock

  • Print

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Scientists have zeroed in on a Martian target for the Curiosity rover to drill into: A rock outcrop as flat as a pool table that's expected to yield fresh insight into the red planet's history.

Running a tad behind schedule, Curiosity was due to arrive at the site in the next several days. After an inspection of the surroundings, the car-size rover will test its drill for the first time "probably in the next two weeks," project manager Richard Cook of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Tuesday.

The highly anticipated drilling has been billed as the most complex engineering task since the acrobatic landing inside a Martian crater last summer. Curiosity is on a quest to determine whether environmental conditions could have been favourable for microbes.

By boring into a rock and transferring the powder to the rover's onboard chemistry lab and other instruments, scientists should get a better handle on the region's mineral and chemical makeup.

"We're thrilled, and we can't wait to get drilling," said project scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology.

Previous rovers Opportunity and Spirit carried a grinding tool that peeled away rock layers. Curiosity is capable of drilling down several inches to collect a sample from the interior — a first on Mars.

Opportunity is still operating on the surface of Mars, but Spirit lost contact with Earth in 2010.

Since the $2.5 billion Curiosity mission launched in 2011, engineers have been troubleshooting an issue with the rover's drill in which flakes of Teflon can break off and get mixed with the rock samples. Cook said the contamination should not affect the mission.

"We are reasonably confident that it's something that we'll be able to work our way around," he said.

As the most high-tech interplanetary rover, Curiosity has been on a slow streak since its action-packed arrival. Grotzinger said the pace of the mission was "100 per cent discovery-driven" and can't be rushed.

Already, Curiosity has lingered longer than expected at its current location because scientists have been captivated by the sedimentary rocks that differ from the pebbles found at the landing site. After some last-minute studies, the rover will head to the rock outcrop dubbed "John Klein" after a mission team member who died in 2011.

Curiosity's ultimate goal is to drive to the base of Mount Sharp, a six-month journey with no stops. The plan is to begin the road trip after drilling is complete with pauses along the way.

___

Follow Alicia Chang at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw: Video shows destroyed West Hawk Inn

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A squirrel enjoys the morning sunshine next to the duck pond in Assiniboine Park Wednesday– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Have you decided which mayoral candidate will get your vote?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google