PASADENA, Calif. - The bit of the rock-sampling drill on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity left its mark on a Martian rock this weekend during brief testing of the tool's percussive action.
The successful activity, called a "drill-on-rock checkout" by the rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, is part of a series of tests to prepare for the first drilling in history to collect a sample of rock material on Mars.
An image of the bit mark on the rock target called "John Klein" is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia16717.html .
Another preparatory test, called "mini drill," will precede the full drilling. The mini drill test will use both the rotary and percussive actions of the drill to generate a ring of rock powder around a hole. This will allow for evaluation of the material to see if it behaves as a dry powder suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms.
During a two-year prime mission, researchers are using Curiosity's 10 science instruments to assess whether the study area in Gale Crater on Mars ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.