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It looks like Curiosity's drill is finally back in action.
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover bored 2 inches (5 centimeters) into a rock on Sunday (May 20), grabbing powdered Red Planet samples for the first time in more than 18 months, agency officials said.
Drilling - Techniques - Bit - Posts - Rock
The most promising of these alternate drilling techniques keeps the drill bit extended beyond the stabilizing posts and then pushes it into the rock using force provided by the robotic arm. This method passed a multitude of tests here on Earth, and now it's aced its first bona fide run on Mars, on a rock target called "Duluth," mission team members said.
"The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet," Curiosity deputy project manager Steve Lee, of JPL, said in a statement. "Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles [97 million kilometers] away. We're thrilled that the result was so successful."
Curiosity - Technique - Fashion - Year - Inches
Curiosity demonstrated the new technique in a limited fashion earlier this year, boring about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) into a different Mars rock. But that hole wasn't deep enough to allow the rover to grab samples, NASA officials said.
Drilling is a vital part of Curiosity's $2.5 billion mission, which is investigating Mars' past potential to host life and how the Red Planet's climate has changed over time. Curiosity's analyses of drilled rock samples have allowed the rover team to determine that the robot's landing site, the floor of the 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater, hosted a habitable lake-and-stream system for long stretches billions of years ago.
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