NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered something new for the first time. The rover has been analyzed drilled samples on Mars in their labs more than a year. The Curiosity rover is part of the MSL mission (Mars Science Laboratory mission), and it was drilled its last planned rock sample in October 2016.
“This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,” said Jim Erickson, project manager of the MSL mission, which is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “JPL’s engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016”.
The discoveries are going to be unveiled on Thursday, June 7.
“The science team was confident that the engineers would deliver — so confident that we drove back to a site that we missed drilling before. The gambit paid off, and we now have a key sample we might have never gotten,” Vasavada said. “It’s quite remarkable to have a moment like this, five years into the mission. It means we can resume studying Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is climbing, with our full range of scientific tools.”
The new sample transferal technique allows Curiosity to position its drill over two small inlets on top of the rover’s deck, trickling in the appropriate amount of rock powder for the onboard laboratories to do their analyses.
“On Mars we have to try and estimate visually whether this is working, just by looking at images of how much powder falls out,” said John Michael Moorokian of JPL, the engineer who led development of the new sample delivery method. “We’re talking about as little as half a baby aspirin worth of sample.”
A successful experiment of the delivery method on May 22 led to even additional improvements in the delivery technique.