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Physical Chemistry

Curiosity Drills Martian Rock

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
February 18, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 7

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Curiosity drills its first hole into a martian rock.
This is a close-up view of the results during the 180th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Curiosity drills its first hole into a martian rock.
An animation of three images shows Curiosity's drill taking a sample.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity made history by drilling a hole into a martian rock and collecting a sample of the rock that will be deposited into its suite of instruments for chemical analysis, scientists announced on Feb. 9. “The most advanced planetary robot ever designed is now a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars,” says John M. Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Curiosity’s drill bored a hole 1.6 cm in diameter and 6.4 cm deep in an area of sedimentary bedrock that scientists believe may show chemical evidence of a past watery environment. The sample will be analyzed over the next few weeks by the rover’s Chemistry & Mineralogy and Sample Analysis at Mars instruments, which will look for organic chemicals, minerals, and water. Curiosity has already performed tests of its instruments with five scoops of martian dirt, finding chlorinated methanes (C&EN, Dec. 10, 2012, page 44).


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