Curiosity rover preparing to drill into first martian rock

Jan 15, 2013
This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The rover's right Mast Camera (Mastcam), equipped with a telephoto lens, was about 16 feet (5 meters) away from the site when it recorded this mosaic's component images, between 3:10 and 3:33 in the afternoon of the 153rd Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Jan. 10, 2013). The area is shot full of fractures and veins, with the intervening rock also containing concretions, which are small spherical concentrations of minerals. The scale bar on the left image is 19.7 inches (50 centimeters) long. On the annotated version, three boxes, each about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across, designate enlargements on the right that illustrate attributes of the area. Enlargement A shows a high concentration of ridge-like veins protruding above the surface. Some of the veins have two walls and an eroded interior. Enlargement B shows that in some portions of this feature, there is a horizontal discontinuity a few centimeters or inches beneath the surface. The discontinuity may be a bed, a fracture, or potentially a horizontal vein. Enlargement C shows a hole developed in the sand that overlies a fracture, implying infiltration of sand down into the fracture system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)—NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is driving toward a flat rock with pale veins that may hold clues to a wet history on the Red Planet. If the rock meets rover engineers' approval when Curiosity rolls up to it in coming days, it will become the first to be drilled for a sample during the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

The size of a car, Curiosity is inside Mars' Gale Crater investigating whether the planet ever offered an environment favorable for . Curiosity landed in the crater five months ago to begin its two-year prime mission.

"Drilling into a rock to collect a sample will be this mission's most challenging activity since the landing. It has never been done on Mars," said Mars Science Laboratory project manager Richard Cook of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The drill hardware interacts energetically with Martian material we don't control. We won't be surprised if some steps in the process don't go exactly as planned the first time through."

Curiosity first will gather powdered samples from inside the rock and use those to scrub the drill. Then the rover will drill and ingest more samples from this rock, which it will analyze for information about its mineral and .

The chosen rock is in an area where Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) and other cameras have revealed diverse unexpected features, including veins, nodules, cross-bedded layering, a lustrous pebble embedded in sandstone, and possibly some holes in the ground.

This image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows inclined layering known as cross-bedding in an outcrop called "Shaler" on a scale of a few tenths of meters, or decimeters (1 decimeter is nearly 4 inches). The superimposed scale bar is 50 centimeters (19.7 inches). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The rock chosen for drilling is called "John Klein" in tribute to former Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager John W. Klein, who died in 2011.

"John's leadership skill played a crucial role in making Curiosity a reality," said Cook.

The target is on flat-lying bedrock within a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay." The terrain in this area differs from that of the landing site, a dry streambed about a third of a mile (about 500 meters) to the west. Curiosity's science team decided to look there for a first drilling target because orbital observations showed fractured ground that cools more slowly each night than nearby terrain types do.

"The orbital signal drew us here, but what we found when we arrived has been a great surprise," said Mars project scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "This area had a different type of wet environment than the streambed where we landed, maybe a few different types of wet environments."

One line of evidence comes from inspection of light-toned veins with Curiosity's laser-pulsing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, which found elevated levels of calcium, sulfur and hydrogen.

"These veins are likely composed of hydrated calcium sulfate, such as bassinite or gypsum," said ChemCam team member Nicolas Mangold of the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes in France. "On Earth, forming veins like these requires water circulating in fractures."

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. These veins form when water circulates through fractures, depositing minerals along the sides of the fracture, to form a vein. These veins are Curiosity's first look at minerals that formed within water that percolated within a subsurface environment. These vein fills are characteristic of the stratigraphically lowest unit in the "Yellowknife Bay" area -- known as the Sheepbed Unit. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Researchers have used the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to examine sedimentary rocks in the area. Some are sandstone, with grains up to about peppercorn size. One grain has an interesting gleam and bud-like shape that have brought it Internet buzz as a "Martian flower." Other rocks nearby are siltstone, with grains finer than powdered sugar. These differ significantly from pebbly conglomerate rocks in the landing area.

"All of these are sedimentary rocks, telling us Mars had environments actively depositing material here," said MAHLI deputy principal investigator Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz. "The different grain sizes tell us about different transport conditions."

JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Related Stories

Curiosity rover explores 'Yellowknife Bay'

Jan 07, 2013

(Phys.org)—After imaging during the holidays, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity resumed driving Jan. 3 and pulled within arm's reach of a sinuous rock feature called "Snake River."

Curiosity rover explores 'Yellowknife Bay'

Dec 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—The NASA Mars rover Curiosity this week is driving within a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay," providing information to help researchers choose a rock to drill.

Curiosity rover nearing Yellowknife Bay

Dec 12, 2012

(Phys.org)—The NASA Mars rover Curiosity drove 63 feet (19 meters) northeastward early Monday, Dec. 10, approaching a step down into a slightly lower area called "Yellowknife Bay," where researchers intend ...

One year after launch, Curiosity rover busy on Mars

Nov 27, 2012

(Phys.org)—The NASA Mars rover Curiosity began its flight to Mars on Nov. 26, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., tucked inside the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft. One year after launch ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

9 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

16 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

18 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

18 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

19 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 44

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarD
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 15, 2013
Drill baby Drill.
obama_socks
1.8 / 5 (10) Jan 15, 2013
Caltech...my old alma mater.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (20) Jan 15, 2013
Caltech...my old alma mater.

I call BS on that statement. There is no way you ever went to college by the stuff you post here.
obama_socks
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 15, 2013
Caltech...my old alma mater.

I call BS on that statement. There is no way you ever went to college by the stuff you post here.
AA

You really should lay off the joy juice, AA...it's very unbecoming for one so learned in all things - presumably.
As to your evidence regarding the education for which I received my diplomas, awards, et al, I ASSUME that you do have such evidence, yes?
Early into my Physorg identity as Obama_Socks, I did mention to your friend, Blotto, that this is not my primary user name, and that I use this name just for fun, commenting on everything else BUT Engineering. I use my primary name only to discuss Engineering topics with like-minded commenters who also use their primary name for the same purpose.

Surely, you don't really think that the others and I would be so foolish as to give away our true identities in THIS Physorg when there are so many trolls, cranks, and obviously mentally ill people roaming the unholy threads of this site, aye?
FrankHerbert
2.4 / 5 (20) Jan 15, 2013
Nobody believes you, moron.
SleepTech
5 / 5 (2) Jan 15, 2013
Drill baby Drill.

http://phys.org/n...ity.html

See: comments
obama_socks
2.6 / 5 (15) Jan 15, 2013
Nobody believes you, moron.
-FH

Am I supposed to care? ROFLOL
FrankHerbert
2.4 / 5 (17) Jan 15, 2013
Your posts ooze care.
obama_socks
2 / 5 (12) Jan 15, 2013
There..is a great example of the trolls, cranks and mentally ill people in this Physorg.
"Nobody believe you, moron"...says FrankHerbert aka Blotto aka Theghostofotto1923
Antialias seems to enjoy holding forth with such mental deficients reading his every utterance (typed). It takes a hardy soul to perform like a trained seal on the top level while the lesser trained seals below applaud with their flippers. Makes AA feel good, I suppose.

My purpose for being in THIS Physorg is to have fun and mock those who need mocking...then to go make love to my woman after I've read the news.

Oh BTW AA, we are working on a new aerospace company project which will not be spoken about in these threads because it is "top secret"...it's not even on Google...yet.
Just sayin'
FrankHerbert
2.4 / 5 (20) Jan 15, 2013
Just look at all that care!
Gino
5 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2013
There was some concern that the drill bits could not be guaranteed sterile how has that been resolved ?
obama_socks
2.4 / 5 (14) Jan 15, 2013
Your posts ooze care.
-FrankHerbutt Now THAT is so profound. Right up there with Freud, Jung and even Nietzsche. Hey Frank/Blotto...do you remember when you were FrankHerbret? That was just one of your other dissociative identities disorder monikers.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (16) Jan 15, 2013
As to your evidence regarding the education for which I received my diplomas, awards, et al, I ASSUME that you do have such evidence, yes?

Yes I do. It's all over the comment sections. No one who has received a higher degree of learning would post such utter nonsense as you do. From very basic scientific mistakes to failures at the most simple feats of logic. No sir. You got through highschool. But that's it.
FrankHerbert
2.2 / 5 (17) Jan 15, 2013
Here comes the meltdown in 5... 4... 3...
obama_socks
2.1 / 5 (14) Jan 15, 2013
As to your evidence regarding the education for which I received my diplomas, awards, et al, I ASSUME that you do have such evidence, yes?

Yes I do. It's all over the comment sections. No one who has received a higher degree of learning would post such utter nonsense as you do. From very basic scientific mistakes to failures at the most simple feats of logic. No sir. You got through highschool. But that's it.
-AA

You don't seem to comprehend English too well, AA. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine. As I've said before, this user name is for fun, can you comprehend that much, AA? I do not feel compelled to give complete or even partial dissertations as to the topics when your friend Blotto/FrankHerbert and a few others have the temerity of attempting to give the boot in the pants to actual scientists whose research is the topic of discussion in some of the threads.
I bear witness to their tomfoolery as insulting to bona fide scientists.
FrankHerbert
2.7 / 5 (19) Jan 15, 2013
Bzzzz Wrong!

That name is only for "fun" yet you often make earnest statements and get angry when called out on how stupid they are. Nobody believes you are actually a scientist/engineer/intelligent.
Shootist
3.3 / 5 (12) Jan 15, 2013
Your posts ooze care.


Progressives embracing diversity.

Blazes, but I miss Oliver.
VendicarD
3.4 / 5 (15) Jan 15, 2013
Cleaning toilets doesn't count.

"Caltech...my old alma mater." - Sox

You are far too stupid to have graduated from there.

Unless of course you have subsequently developed brain cancer.
obama_socks
2.6 / 5 (13) Jan 15, 2013
I do not consider THIS Physorg as a proper venue for serious, mindful discussion while the terms, "tard", "moron", "imbecile" and others are bandied about in the comment sections as though these threads were the domain of the residents of the local looney bin, as evidenced by VendicarD's "tard" and FrankHerbert/Theghostofotto's other zingers, aimed at not only myself, but others who may have typed innocently and totally unaware of what was to befall their likewise innocent posts.

Too bad that this Physorg has deteriorated so utterly in the ensuing years since its first inception, and the time when I and many others spoke to each other in subdued and respectful tones. It is all gone and that seems to meet with your approval, AA...since I have never read a word from you in protest.
FrankHerbert
2.4 / 5 (17) Jan 15, 2013
I think he's more likely suffering from stage IV conservatism.
VendicarD
2.8 / 5 (11) Jan 15, 2013
I once had a schizophrenic draw a picture of a bean and tell me that it was his blueprint for a space ship.

"Oh BTW AA, we are working on a new aerospace company " - Sox

Sox is hearing voices.
VendicarD
3.5 / 5 (13) Jan 15, 2013
Sox is right. Without strict moderation, serious dicussions are impossible here, due to ignorant and purposely deceitful posts from people like himself.

"I do not consider THIS Physorg as a proper venue for serious, mindful discussion while the terms, "tard", "moron", "imbecile" and others are bandied about in the comment sections as though these threads were the domain of the residents of the local looney bin" - Sox
VendicarD
3.2 / 5 (11) Jan 15, 2013
Then he is already clinically brain dead and should be put down for the benefit of society.

"I think he's more likely suffering from stage IV conservatism." - FrankHerbert

By supporting the continued existence of these Conservative Zombies, America is doing nothing but promoting a coming Zombie Apocalypse.
FrankHerbert
1.3 / 5 (13) Jan 15, 2013
LOL I think he is emphasizing 'this' because he claims the moderators made a special copy of physorg just for him and his buddies. In reality it's a free BBS with maybe 4 members if it exists at all.
obama_socks
2.8 / 5 (11) Jan 15, 2013
I once had a schizophrenic draw a picture of a bean and tell me that it was his blueprint for a space ship.


One of your kindergarten drawings?

"Oh BTW AA, we are working on a new aerospace company " - Sox

Sox is hearing voices.
-VD

You forgot the word "project".
obama_socks
3 / 5 (12) Jan 15, 2013
LOL I think he is emphasizing 'this' because he claims the moderators made a special copy of physorg just for him and his buddies. In reality it's a free BBS with maybe 4 members if it exists at all.
-FH/Blotto

You seem perturbed. If you didn't think that it exists at all, as you say, then why get all emotional about it? And if it doesn't exist at all, then where would you get the idea that it's a free BBS...in reality as you say?
evropej
2.5 / 5 (8) Jan 15, 2013
Lowering education standards is a liberal agenda. Given that the current flaming liberal legislation in the federal government is signing bills without reading or understanding, I would not go advertising my gratitude for such matters or party unless you lack the cognitive capacity to recognize ignorance of such magnitude. FYI, this site is for science, something that the liberals are destroying from the ground up ( bye bye NASA, space programs, or any advanced program ). Now go troll somewhere else let people discuss the article which is posted and not your delusional support of retardation.
Anda
3.5 / 5 (13) Jan 15, 2013
Obama_socks:
antialias comments are always interesting, science based and welcome.
Yours... well, not.
So you don't wanna speak about you? AA Many alias? (pathetic). AA Great engineer? Doubt it. AA Your woman lets you make love to her? Very interesting pfffffffffffff. Sorry person...
that_guy
3.2 / 5 (13) Jan 15, 2013
@Antialias - Just because someone has multiple high level degrees or even a distinguished past doesn't mean they are or ever were sane or good people.

Most engineers/accountants/heavy math degrees I know tend to swing farther right/libertarian than the rest of the educated population.

I personally believe Obama Socks is an engineer, because I know a few in person just like him. Just because you're educated and good with numbers doesn't make you not an ignorant asshole, quite the contrary - With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes. No exception with Obama socks.

As far as the "Secret Project", I'm sure it's overblown for effect. Either way, i don't care.
Jaeherys
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 15, 2013
"With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes." -that_guy

I am a biology major and I disagree. You see, just because I know everything doesn't make me an asshole, it just makes me right! :D
that_guy
4.2 / 5 (10) Jan 16, 2013
"With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes." -that_guy

I am a biology major and I disagree. You see, just because I know everything doesn't make me an asshole, it just makes me right! :D

As an IT guy, I can assure you that if we disagree, it's because I'm right. Therefore, you must be wrong.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 16, 2013
With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes

Might you have come to this conclusion because every one of them you have met has reacted the same way to you that people react to you on this site? Think about it. If an entire group seems the same way to you then the common denominator is: you.

If scientists or science/math/engineering majors can't stand one thing it's (willfully) stupid people.

Just because someone has multiple high level degrees or even a distinguished past doesn't mean they are or ever were sane or good people

Agreed. But we're because we appreciate and want to discuss science - and at THAT such people are infinitely superior. Even not-so-good-people scientists will argue based on facts using logic (if they don't then they're not scientists).
evropej
1 / 5 (3) Jan 16, 2013
Lowering education standard has a tendency to make some people think they are more intelligent and more importantly qualified to discuss and debate topics which they do not comprehend or are completely out of the scope of their understanding. Combine this with a democratic flavor to a discussion, idiots out numbering nerds results in a conclusion that idiots must be right because of majority. At the end, there is nothing better than trolls hijacking threads and making them a political agenda to defend their fickle views of life.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (7) Jan 16, 2013
Surely, you don't really think that the others and I would be so foolish as to give away our true identities


my profile has my real name and even has a photo. I suspect that most the people who post crazy things on here probably don't act so crazy in real life. An internet forum is a place where there's no penalty for having a little fun and acting goofy. As the Goons are famous for saying "The internet is serious business".

With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes


Being nice takes too long. Why waste time explaining things nicely to people who won't understand it anyway? Ever try to explain significant digits to a guy with an MBA, for example? The head accountant where I work once told me my numbers were wrong because a series of 10 percentages which had been rounded to whole numbers didn't add up to 100! He said to fix it, so I asked him which number he wanted me to change. He said add an unaccounted figure!!!!
GSwift7
5 / 5 (5) Jan 16, 2013
Gino:

There was some concern that the drill bits could not be guaranteed sterile how has that been resolved ?


It's not a perfect solution, but they do a couple of dummy runs before they take a real sample. That is supposed to get rid of most contamination, either from Earth or from other sites they examine on Mars. It's not going to completely eliminate cross-contamination between sites, but they know that. As long as you know that's a possible problem, you can weigh that possibility before making conclusions about the data. It doesn't have to be perfect to be useful.
that_guy
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 16, 2013
I see you take offense to the idea that other science or applied science people might think different from you Anti-Alias.

With the exception of science majors, applied math degree people tend to be bigger assholes

Might you have come to this conclusion because every one of them you have met has reacted the same way to you that people react to you on this site?
If scientists or science/math/engineering majors can't stand one thing it's (willfully) stupid people.


I take this from the fact that some of them spout anti-obama conspiracy theories from the "Obama's america" movie about abolishing elections, changing the flag, etc.

If there's one thing I think makes someone an asshole, it's irrational douchebaggery.

And when their reaction is to blame obama for every perceived ill of the world, then yes, me labeling them assholes is a common denominator.

just because someone is educated doesn't mean they are rational or think like you AA.
that_guy
4.6 / 5 (9) Jan 16, 2013
Just because someone has multiple high level degrees or even a distinguished past doesn't mean they are or ever were sane or good people

Agreed. But we're because we appreciate and want to discuss science - and at THAT such people are infinitely superior. Even not-so-good-people scientists will argue based on facts using logic (if they don't then they're not scientists).


I'm going to point out that your generalizations are idiotic to think that everyone with your type of education have the same great qualities you think you see in yourself.

I pointed out, that in my experience that I see an anecdotal tendency. Then you insult me for coming to the same conclusion you would have in the same situation?

*Generally* I agree with you on this site, but I think your personal identification and offense leads you to a lot of false assumptions. Science based people can be irrational as well. Not all right wing nutjobs are uneducated idiots, idiot.
MIBO
3 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2013
shame that this was an article about one of the most technologically challenging missions ever attempted and the comments so far seem irrelevant.
On the subject of the images, anybody got any ideas what the item on the lower right of the second image is, the item with something sticking out of the top. And if you say a Rock, please be prepared to explain the process by which such a structure forms.
MIBO
3 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2013
My opinion on 2 strutures in the second photo can be found here

www.facebook.com/...13447890
FrankHerbert
1.7 / 5 (11) Jan 18, 2013
the comments so far seem irrelevant.

And if you say a Rock, please be prepared to explain the process by which such a structure forms.


Welcome to the club!
Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2013
shame that this was an article about one of the most technologically challenging missions ever attempted and the comments so far seem irrelevant.
On the subject of the images, anybody got any ideas what the item on the lower right of the second image is, the item with something sticking out of the top. And if you say a Rock, please be prepared to explain the process by which such a structure forms.


@MIBO,

If you mean the image that appears deeper in the body of the article, and not at the lead of the article, then I am going to say that it is a projecting, bladelike piece of rock. If you look a little to the left,and even near to the rock you are speaking of, you will see many examples of flattened, bladelike fragments of rock.

What I want to know is, why is the second image not one of the three targets from the first image, and why does it so closely resemble a piece of petrified --or even freeze-dried-- wood?

Caliban
1 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2013
Another thing that puzzles me is that, if I'm not mistaken, these images are corrected to be earth equivalent in terms of color, but --yes or no-- the second image looks remarkably earth light- and color- like, up to and including giving the distinct impression of DAMPNESS of the sandy soils.

As for the other images, these are clearly evidence of running water and also of evaporative drying of wet sediments.

This should be clear to anyone that has spent even a small amount of time outdoors and observing the earth around us. And, while it is true that wind(maybe liquid CO2) will also create many of these features, it's pretty rare to see it size-sort grains to this extent, and it certainly doesn't produce secondary minerals like what is apparently calcite or one of its relatives in fractures of the host rocks.

The closer you look, the more evidence can be seen pointing to abundant water in the past, recent past, and quite possibly right friggin' now!

Caliban
1 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2013
In fact, this image appears so very terrestrial that I wonder if it might have been planted by someone to check if we are paying attention.

Or it could just be that my tinfoil hat is too tight.

LorentzFactor
not rated yet Jan 19, 2013
My opinion on 2 strutures in the second photo can be found here

http://www.facebo...13447890


second image via facebook:
~~ "Strange shatf shich appears to be connected to the object below it using a bolt, possible a cable termination?"

If you notice in this image, the shadow of the "lower object" doesn't exhibit a shadow of the structure which appears to be rod like. What this suggests is that this is illusory and likely just a crest of a small bulge in the ground. The shadowing of the left side of the shape also suggests it is almost flush with the ground.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.