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Mars Drill
Links to broadcast quality audio files and transcripts, May 11, 2005 interview with Carol Stoker, research scientist, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, principal investigator for the Mars Drill field test, project.

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Full Transcript (below)

3. Q: What does this drill rig look like?

Stoker: "What we started with is a – basically a three-legged lander platform. So, it's a plate. It's, um, actually a hexagon in shape. So, it's like the shape of a stop sign. Ha, ha. It's about seven feet in diameter, ah, and then mounted on the plate are a number of different subsystems. Ah, in particular there's the drill. Ah, the drill is mounted on, ah, its own test stand that is mounted on this plate. And the drill sticks up about eight feet in the air. So, it's a little bit taller than – ah, maybe about the size – the height of a basketball hoop, ha, ha, at the top of the drill mast. And then other things mounted on the plate include a, what's called the core sample handling system. This is a device for once we pull cores out of the ground – so, the drill actually makes core – ah, plugs of rock that will be approximately eight inches long. Then, those are handed off to a clamp, which is, ah, mounted on a rail. And the clamp, then, moves along the rail and runs the core under a set of instruments that look at the core, examining it for interesting features that might indicate that there's biological processing going on in these cores. Ah, and then, there's a rack of these clamps, so that once the core goes past the instruments, it's stored in a rack until scientists can get, ah, access to the data. So, basically the instruments acquire the data. So, basically, we have cameras and spectrometers, which look at these cores. And then the data is transmitted to scientists who would be located in another site. If this were on Mars, those scientists would be located on Earth. And they would look at those images and those spectra and decide if there's anything interesting in those cores, ah, that would warrant further inspection or further information. If they were to decide that a particular core did warrant further information, that core would be retrieved from the rack, and then sub-sampled using a saw that would cut a piece out the core. And then that piece is placed in a crusher that crushes the rock into powder. And then the powder is placed into another set of instruments that look for evidence of biological activity – so that – signs of life. In fact, there's an instrument called the 'Signs of Life Detector.' " (3:03 MINUTES)