NASA announced today that the Curiosity rover has for the first time drilled into the surface of Mars. This milestone is notable not just in that it's a first for Curiosity, but it's the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet.
This image shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by Curiosity's drill, taken by the Mast Camera after the sample was transferred from the drill to the rover's 1.8-inch scoop on February 20, 2012.
Next, the sample will be sifted in the 150-micrometer sieve to remove the larger pieces, and then delivered to the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument (CheMin). CheMin is a powder X-ray Diffraction (XRD) mineralogy instrument that will identify and quantify the minerals present in rocks and soil.
The resulting data will be useful in identifying potential biosignatures, energy sources for life, or indicators of past habitable environments, including the involvement of water in the formation and alteration of the rock samples.