Mars rover team chooses not to drill 'Bonanza King'

Aug 25, 2014 by Guy Webster
This image from the front Hazcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover's drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, "Bonanza King," would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —Evaluation of a pale, flat Martian rock as the potential next drilling target for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover determined that the rock was not stable enough for safe drilling.

The rock, called "Bonanza King," moved slightly during the mini-drill activity on Wednesday, at an early stage of this test, when the percussion drill impacted the rock a few times to make an indentation.

Instead of that or any similar rock nearby, the team has decided that Curiosity will resume driving toward its long-term destination on the slopes of a layered mountain. It will take a route skirting the north side of a sandy-floored valley where it turned around two weeks ago.

"We have decided that the rocks under consideration for drilling, based on the tests we did, are not good candidates for drilling," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Instead of drilling here, we will resume driving toward Mount Sharp."

After the rover team chooses a candidate drilling target, the target is subjected to several tests to check whether it meets criteria for collecting a drilled sample without undue risk to rover hardware. The mission's previous three drilling targets, all at more extensive outcrops, met those criteria.

Bonanza King is on the northeastern end of "Hidden Valley." Earlier this month, Curiosity began driving through the valley, but the rover slipped in the sand more than anticipated.

"After further analysis of the sand, Hidden Valley does not appear to be navigable with the desired degree of confidence," Erickson said. "We will use a route avoiding the worst of the sharp rocks as we drive slightly to the north of Hidden Valley."

The rover has driven about 5.5 miles (8.8 kilometers) since landing inside Gale Crater in August 2012, and has about 2 miles (3 kilometers) remaining to reach an entry point to the slopes of Mount Sharp, in the middle of the crater.

The mission made important discoveries near its landing site during its first year by finding evidence of ancient lake and river environments. The rover's findings indicated that those environments would have provided favorable conditions for microbes to live. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project continues to use Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. The destinations on Mount Sharp offer a series of layers that recorded different chapters in the environmental evolution of early Mars.

Explore further: Curiosity Mars rover prepares for fourth rock drilling

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mars rover Curiosity wrapping up waypoint work

May 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —Portions of powdered rock collected by drilling into a sandstone target last week have been delivered to laboratory instruments inside NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, and the rover will soon drive ...

NASA Mars rover Curiosity nears mountain-base outcrop

Aug 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —As it approaches the second anniversary of its landing on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover is also approaching its first close look at bedrock that is part of Mount Sharp, the layered mountain in ...

Image: Mars rover Curiosity scoping out next study area

Apr 04, 2014

(Phys.org) —On Wednesday, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover drove the last 98 feet feet (30 meters) needed to arrive at a site planned since early 2013 as a destination for studying rock clues about ancient environments ...

Recommended for you

India's spacecraft 'on target' to reach Mars

11 hours ago

An Indian spacecraft is on course to reach Mars, an official said Monday, following a 666-million-kilometre voyage that could see New Delhi's low-cost space programme win Asia's race to the Red Planet.

Rosetta's lander Philae will target Site J

13 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Rosetta's lander Philae will target Site J, an intriguing region on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2014
It is a smarter way of exploring. We only drill solid, unmovable rocks by our custom-made, intelligently designed and versatile hardware. The main point is to show the drill and take pictures. The ability to investigate interesting loose samples that must be investigated is not our concern nor agenda.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2014
The main point is to show the drill and take pictures.The ability to investigate interesting loose samples that must be investigated is not our concern nor agenda
@Skepticus
I know that I would rather have more samples drilled, but...
I also think they are trying to save the equipment for certain targeted areas..which means that they are speculating that the areas targeted will likely produce some of the best information...

breaking the drill/equipment now would only screw that up.
which is validated by this comment
The destinations on Mount Sharp offer a series of layers that recorded different chapters in the environmental evolution of early Mars.
I think it is better to consider a cautious approach with the rover and no backup/mechanic's on duty nearby

just IMHO though.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2014
I don't care what they drill, the design is flawed. Have you tried to drill a loose piece of wood with one hand only? The idiots at Nasa obviously thought that's the ways to drill loose things- one handed, no means of constraints or stabilization whatsoever of the target. Apparently they are too overpaid to ever do real drilling with their hands.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2014
The idiots at Nasa obviously thought that's the ways to drill loose things- one handed, no means of constraints or stabilization whatsoever of the target
@skepticus
OR
they never thought they would be doing light drilling
OR
there were weight limits for the launch/transfer/landing which would exclude putting another stabilizing arm for the loose rock drilling application
OR
there was a size limit and an additional arm would not have fit within the confines of the small space used to shuttle the rover to the planet

have you asked WHY? have you addressed this directly to NASA?
or do you prefer to run your mouth and denigrate a hard working team without evidence like RC does?
HERE is the site: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

why not find out DIRECTLY... I will also ask DIRECTLY
we can compare notes here after you get your reply
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Aug 26, 2014
The idiots at Nasa obviously thought that's the ways to drill
@skepticus
here is ONE thing that I DID find
...Seismometer and the soil physical properties Instrument: these two instruments would require a robotic arm and this device is difficult to accommodate inside the baseline DM. (Descent Module)
This requirement has mainly impact on the design of the DM Support and Egress System (SES), the platform supporting the Rover and many avionic equipment during landing, in which the GEP has to be mounted as well.
found here: http://solarsyste...a%29.pdf

so from what I can tell... the limitations of the Descent Module limited what they could attach to the rover
this is then VERY WELL thought out. you just don't like what it has to say

also: it doesn't limit the mission as planned, only in how it can expand
so it is still an awesome tool and useful AS PLANNED

Skepticus
not rated yet Aug 26, 2014
You DON'T need another arm. A few extra actuators and mechanisms on the same arm of the drill would work. I don't have to draw diagrams for you or nasa engineers. Why? because those highly qualified and paid persons will at best pat you on the back and said: "Good idea, it will be studied, thank you..."...(you two-bit smart arse off the street. Where are your research papers, models, patents, reputations, accreditations, qualifications? We have our own rituals and procedures that must be followed in our esteemed priesthood.)
As you said, it is useful as VERY WELL thought out and PLANNED tool...within the limits of the vaulted thoughts and planning of its designers.