NASA has been drilling into the surface of Mars using tools on the Curiously Rover for a long time now. The goal is to determine the composition of rocks on the planet and to help determine if any water exists or existed on the planet while ultimately looking for signs of life on the red planet. So far, Curiosity has drilled into two other rocks and both of them have been mudstone.
NASA was looking at a potential third location for drilling with a rock dubbed “windjana.” That rock gets its name from a gorge in Western Australia. If drilling commences into Mars’ Windjana, it will be the first place Curiosity has drilled that isn’t into mudstone. Windjana is sandstone and the first task to determine if NASA should drill into the rock is using the rovers camera and x-ray spectrometer to look at the composition of the rock at different locations.
If drilling is performed, a sample of the rock from deep inside will be analyzed by Curiosity’s onboard lab. Curiosity discovered evidence of an ancient lakebed with its first two drilling samples. The team is hoping that drilling into the rock will give clues to the cement-like material that holds the sand-size grains in the rock together.
Curiosity is able to analyze the surface of rocks using a camera and an x-ray spectrometer on the end of its arm. The tool is known as ChemCam and it is able to determine the composition of rocks by analyzing the light given off when the laser hits the surface of the rock.
SOURCE: The Space Reporter