We’ve seen NASA‘s Mars Curiosity rover bore into Martian rock with a small drill multiple times, but the robot has just taken things to the next level: lasers. Specifically, the rover got to bore a small hole into Martian rock by blasting it with a laser repeatedly, causing a hole a few millimeters in diameter, which you can see after the jump.
The hole it created is the dark circular spot in the image above, which was taken with the Chemistry and Camera device on the rover, more commonly called ChemCam. The robot took a series of 16 images, which were then stitched together into an animated GIF showing the laser-boring process in a short time-lapse movie of sorts.
The entire laser-shooting mission took place over the course of 20 minutes, and involved 100 laser blasts into the rock. According to NASA, the animated image, which you can check out for yourself at the link below, was composed of frames taken throughout the process. Initially, the first 25 laser blasts were represented by the first 5 frames in the short movie.
It gets even more awesome from there, with the space agency saying the laser worked by “energetically exciting atoms in the soil.” The result was the small hole, which NASA calls a small crater, which was created by the shock wave by-product of plasma expansion. The hole was formed with the first shot, but as can be seen in the animated image, the hole kept filling in with dirt because it was formed on a slope rather than a flat surface.
The hole was formed in an area called the Sutton Inlier, which is within Yellowknife Bay. The rover’s laser was positioned 9-feet away from the rock, with the device positioned on top of the robot, effectively giving it laser vision if you apply a bit of imagination to it. And putting it all in perspective, every shot with the laser represented in excess of one million watts of energy.