Mars Rover Curiosity Shows Off Its First Drill Sample

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Last week, Mars rover Curiosity, after months of meticulous planning, finally used its hammering drill to collect a sample of Martian rock dust.

Today, NASA scientists have released images confirming that the first-ever sample of drilled rock dust is safely in one of Curiosity's sample scoops.

"Seeing the powder from the drill in the scoop allows us to verify for the first time the drill collected a sample as it bore into the rock," said Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer for Curiosity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown."

In the coming days, the rock sample will be enclosed in Curiosity's Collection and Handling for In-Situ Martian Rock Analysis (CHIMRA) instrument and sieved to remove particles larger than 150 microns (0.006 inches). Small portions of the sample will then be placed inside the rover's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments to determine its mineral and chemical make-up.

The historic drilling took place on February 8, when the rover used its drill to bore a 6.4 centimeter (2.5-inch) hole into a rock named "John Klein." Researchers hope the rock dust will provide information about Mars' wet past, and possibly about whether life could have once existed on the red planet.

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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