NASA’s Curiosity Rover is going to drill a site proposed to be covered by water in past

Patch of veined, flat-lying rocks
This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. Image released Jan. 15, 2013.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA scientists announced that the Mars Curiosity Rover is going to drill into the Red Planet rock in an outcrop that scientists have named as “John Klein”, in tribute to former Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager John W. Klein, who died in 2011, for the first time to know about the site in depth that was probably exposed to water in the past.

“Basically, these rocks were saturated with water,” Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena, told reporters during a teleconference.

During the five months’ stay on Mars $2.5 billion rover worked on its 10 science instruments and other features to make sure that everything is in proper working condition. This drilling that will allow the Curiosity Rover to bore 1 inch into Martian rock is last instrument to check.

John Klein, site, is considered as the best option for drilling due in part to the geologically diverse feature with many water-related characteristics such as the presence of light-colored mineral veins as shown in the figure.

Well defined veins on Mars
This image of an outcrop at the “Sheepbed” locality, taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover with its right Mast Camera (Mastcam), shows show well-defined veins filled with whitish minerals, interpreted as calcium sulfate. Image released Jan. 15, 2013.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

“On Earth, forming veins like these requires water circulating in fractures,” Nicolas Mangold of the University of Nantes in France, a team member for Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument, said in a statement.

Another thing, supporting the presence of water, is a nearby outcrop called Shaler harbors evidencing the transport of sediments. Some of the Shaler’s grains are too big suggesting that water was responsible for their motion not wind.

“This is, I would guess, at least as complex a history for the involvement of water that we’ve seen anywhere on Mars so far,” Grotzinger said. “The main goal of this [drilling operation] is to try to assess this material in a very general way that will give us an appraisal of the habitability of this environment.”

Researchers said that the first hole in the rock will be made within two weeks or so as Curiosity is just a few meters away from the John Klein outcrop at the moment.

“It’s really the most difficult aspect of the surface mission,” said Curiosity project manager Richard Cook, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “We’re undoubtedly going to learn a lot about how to drill things on Mars, as it’s the first time we’ve ever done that. And so we will probably go slowly.”

Mission scientists are excited about the drilling process.

“We’re thrilled, and we can’t wait to get drilling on this stuff,” Grotzinger said.

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