Mars Rover Curiosity to Drill Rocks in Yellowknife Bay


Share this Post

NASA reported this week that Mars Rover Curiosity recently drove 19 meters (63 feet) toward an area called "Yellowknife Bay. The drive represents the rover's fourth consecutive driving day since leaving an outcrop called "Point Lake." Curiosity has now driven a total of 598 meters (0.37 miles) on the surface of Mars.

On the way, scientists used the rover's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument to determine a rock outcrop's composition and document its layering, seen above. Also, the last sample Curiosity had been carrying with it from the "Rocknest" site was placed into the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument to further test its chemical composition.

The drive was cut short when the rover detected a tilt that activated software to automatically stop, as a precaution. Curiosity was not in immediate danger and is not stuck or tipped over.

"The rover is traversing across terrain different from where it has driven earlier, and responding differently," said Rick Welch, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We're making progress, though we're still in the learning phase with this rover, going a little slower on this terrain than we might wish we could."

The rover will soon step down 20 inches into Yellowknife Bay and choose a rock to examine and drill. The rover team is currently checking for a safe way down into the bay, which is a temporary destination before Curiosity turns southwest to it's main destination, an area on the slope of nearby Mount Sharp. This will be the first use of Curiosity's rock-powdering drill while on Mars.

NASA also this week released a video update on Curiosity's mission, bringing fans up to speed on where the rover is and what it has accomplished.

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)