Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mars rover mission drills for sample

The Curiosity rover has drilled its first full hole in Martian rock since May.


The robot used its power tool to grind out a sample from a pale, flat slab at a location dubbed 'Pahrump Hills'.


Curiosity has previously drilled into three rocks to collect powdered tailings for analysis in its sophisticated onboard laboratories.


This latest acquisition should give scientists a taster for the type of sediments that lie ahead.


The rover is currently heading into the foothills of Mount Sharp, a 5km peak in the centre of Mars' Gale Crater.


Researchers hope the chemistry of the rocks at the base of the mountain will reveal new details about the environmental history of Mars.


Already, the one-tonne robot has established that a lake and rivers were present in Gale billions of years ago.


Scientists say the conditions could have supported micro-organisms - had they been present.


Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos