Curiosity Rover Is Drilling On Mars Again

Posted: May 25 2018, 12:56pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Curiosity Rover is Drilling on Mars Again
NASA's Curiosity rover successfully drilled a hole 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) deep in a target called "Duluth" on May 20, 2018. Credit: NASA

The test on Sunday produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year

After some tweaks and changes, NASA’s Curiosity rover is back to its old ways. The rover has tested a new drilling technique on Sunday and it turned out to be successful. During the test, Curiosity produced a hole about 2 inches deep at a target called “Duluth” and achieved a sufficient depth to collect a scientific sample. This was the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year.

Curiosity’s engineering team has been working to restore the rover’s sample-drilling capability since a mechanical problem hampered it in December 2016. They applied a new technique Feed Extended Drilling in the hope of resuming drilling into rocks on Mars. If the previous method involved stabilizers and feed mechanism to touch the rock, the new technique requires the motion of the robotic arm. It is more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

"The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet," said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of JPL. "Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We're thrilled that the result was so successful."

NASA’s Curiosity rover is investigating the ancient environment on Mars and the clues about environmental conditions are recorded in the rock layers. Curiosity has acquired sample material from Mars rocks 15 times so far, from 2013 to 2016. The drill on Curiosity’s robotic arm collects powdered rock samples that are analyzed by laboratory instruments inside the rover.

Recently, Curiosity team added percussion to the Feed Extended Drilling, which increases the amount of force while drilling. The test conducted past weekend is enough to validate that the new method is reliable and work properly. However, engineers at JPL will continue tweaking the extended drilling technique and develop new ways to improve its performance.

"We've been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn't done once a sample has been collected on Mars," said Tom Green, a systems engineer at JPL who helped develop and test Curiosity's new drilling method. "With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our testbed to iterate on the process."

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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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