Earlier today, NASA announced that the Mars Curiosity rover has started a new rock drilling mission on its hunt for evidence of water in Mars' past. Using a bit on a robot arm, the rover bores its way into Martian rock, then acquires the powdered rock samples into the Mars Science Laboratory to be analyzed.
The rover is working its way to its destination spot - the John Klein rock - after more than a month of going through the region. There's no word on when the rover will arrive at its final destination and begin drilling. If the project goes as planned, NASA will use the collected specimen to aid in figuring out if the Gale Crater location was able to have microbial life in the planet's past.
Daniel Limonadi, part of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, had this to say. "We are proceeding with caution in the approach to Curiosity’s first drilling. This is challenging. It will be the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars." When it does take place, scientists expect that positive evidence will result.
Back on December 11, we reported that the rover's electronics could be severely damaged when drilling by a long-known flaw. If a drilling mechanism bond breaks, the entire electrical system could fry. The flaw is said to be minor and that it probably won't be an issue. It looks like we're going to see firsthand what kind of luck the device has in the near future, whether it will survive its first drilling session.
[via The Space Reporter]