Target on Mars Looks Good for NASA Rover Drilling

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used several tools to examine the candidate site over the weekend, including a wire-bristle brush — the Dust Removal Tool — to clear away dust from a patch on the rock. The target slab of sandstone has been given the informal name “Windjana,” after a gorge in Western Australia.

This two-step animation shows before and after views of a patch of sandstone scrubbed with the Dust Removal Tool, a wire-bristle brush, on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Both images were taken April 26, 2014, by the Mars Hand Lens Imager on Curiosity's arm. The target rock is called "Windjana." Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

This two-step animation shows before and after views of a patch of sandstone scrubbed with the Dust Removal Tool, a wire-bristle brush, on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Both images were taken April 26, 2014, by the Mars Hand Lens Imager on Curiosity’s arm. The target rock is called “Windjana.” Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“In the brushed spot, we can see that the rock is fine-grained, its true color is much grayer than the surface dust, and some portions of the rock are harder than others, creating the interesting bumpy textures,” said Curiosity science team member Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “All of these traits reinforce our interest in drilling here in order understand the chemistry of the fluids that bound these grains together to form the rock.”

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover completed a shallow "mini drill" test April 29, 2014, in preparation for full-depth drilling at a rock target called "Windjana." This image from Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager shows the hole resulting from the test, 0.63 inch across and about 0.8 inch deep. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

This image from Curiosity’s Mars Hand Lens Imager shows the hole resulting from the mini-drill test, 0.63 inch across and about 0.8 inch deep. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Before Curiosity drills deeply enough for collection of rock-powder sample, plans call for a preparatory “mini-drill” operation on the target, as a further check for readiness.

The rover performed the “mini-drill” operation Tuesday, April 29, on the rock target under consideration for the mission’s third sample-collection drilling. This preparatory activity produced a hole about eight-tenths of an inch (2 centimeters) deep, as planned, in the target called “Windjana.” The rover team plans to decide whether to proceed with deeper drilling of this rock in coming days.

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