Humanity’s first drilling test outside of the planet Earth

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has drilled about 0.8 inches (2 centimeters) deep into the rock, known as “John Klein”, on Mars for the first time. The rover has made the hole with the drill at the tip of its robotic arm. Photos of the drill site showed small, perfectly round hole surrounded by the drill cuttings.

Hole with a mini-drill test (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Mission scientists selected the John Klein rock as it was found to have clues into the region’s watery past.

“Pre-drilling observations of this rock yielded indications of one or more episodes of wet environmental conditions,” mission managers explained. “The team plans to use Curiosity’s laboratory instruments to analyze sample powder from inside the rock to learn more about the site’s environmental history.”

Under the so-called “mini-drill test”, Curiosity Rover utilized both the hammer and rotating action of its Mars drill for the first time.

The rover crushed the rock at its drill site and will test the fine particles.

“If the drill cuttings on the ground around the fresh hole pass visual evaluation as suitable for processing by the rover’s sample handling mechanisms, the rover team plans to proceed with commanding the first full drilling in coming days,” mission managers said in a statement.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which is the rover’s mission control center, received the confirmation of the drill test on Wednesday (Feb. 6).

During the two years’ stay, Curiosity Rover will use 10 of its science instruments to check the atmosphere of Mars for its habitability sometime in the past.