NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill On Mars Surface

Posted: Mar 2 2018, 9:26am CST | by , Updated: Mar 2 2018, 11:29pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA’s Curiosity Rover Tests New Drill on Mars Surface
Credit: NASA

The new drilling technique is more freehand and prevents the device from drifting sideways and getting stuck in rock

Ever since it was announced that Mars once contained liquid water on its surface, researchers are investigating different sites of the Red Planet to find any evidence of life.

As a part of the effort, NASA’s Curiosity Rover has recently tested a new drilling technique on the Red Planet. The test was performed on a site called Lake Orcadie and it left a hole about a half-inch (1-centimeter) deep at a target.

The new drilling technique is capable of reducing rock samples into powder, which are then analyzed by two of Curiosity's laboratory instruments, Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin).

Since its arrival in 2012, Curiosity rover has been drilling into Mars rocks from time to time. The device that scoops up sample rocks from the surface is mounted at the end of the Curiosity's robotic arm and acts like a two-finger stabilizer. But in December 2016, a key part of the drill broke down and caused a stoppage in the process.

After months of effort, Curiosity's engineering team are now able to start the probe by using a new way of drilling. The new drilling technique is more freehand and uses rover’s entire arm to push the drill forward while taking measurements with a force sensor. The technique also prevents the drill from moving sideways and getting stuck in a rock.

“We're now drilling on Mars more like the way you do at home," said Steven Lee, deputy project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Humans are pretty good at re-centering the drill, almost without thinking about it. Programming Curiosity to do this by itself was challenging—especially when it wasn't designed to do that."

The recent test is just the first in what will be a series of tests to determine how well the new drilling method can unearth surface and collect rock samples. If this drill had achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun a new testing process.

"This is a really good sign for the new drilling method," said Doug Klein of JPL, one of Curiosity's sampling engineers. "Next, we have to drill a full-depth hole and demonstrate our new techniques for delivering the sample to Curiosity's two onboard labs."

By analyzing sample powder from inside the rock, researchers will attempt to learn more about the site's environmental history. The findings will help researchers determine how Mars' ancient environment changed from wet place favorable for life to harsher, drier world.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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