First sample from the interior of a rock on another planet
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.
2 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Honeybee Robotics/LANL/CNES
ChemCam laser marks
Using the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) laser to analyze one of the four potential targets considered for drilling, here we the see nine small holes where Curiosity zapped the Martian surface during analysis.
Brush marks can be seen where the rover's Dust Removal Tool (DRT) brushed away dust prior to using the laser on the target rock, which is known as "Wernecke." Ultimately, this target was not chosen for drilling.
This image was captured by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on January 30, 2013.
3 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
First drill at "John Klein"
A rock called "John Klein" is where the rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars on February 8, 2013, Curiosity's 182nd Martian day of operations.
The drill hole is 0.63 inch in diameter and 2.5 inches deep, and the site of the first samples ever collected from the interior of another planet. To the right is a mini test drill hole with same 0.63 inch diameter, but with a depth of just 0.8 inches.
4 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
150-micrometer sifting screen
The sieve screen, used for sifting rock samples after drilling, is seen here on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and is used to remove the larger particles from samples before delivery to the analysis instruments.
The 150-micrometer sieve is part of the Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) hardware at the end of Curiosity's arm.
5 of 5 NASA/JPL-Caltech
Putting the tools to work
This high-res image from the Navigation Camera on the Curiosity rover shows the turret of tools at the end of the rover's arm, as seen on August 20, 2012.
Tools at the end of the robotic arm include the X-ray spectrometer (APXS), the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI camera), and the Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) which includes a drill and two spare bits, a brush, soil scoops, and the 150-micrometer seive.