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NASA's Curiosity ready to drill first Mars rock

NASA's Curiosity, the SUV-sized robot exploring Mars, is getting ready to spin its drill bit for the first time. Curiosity can probe an inch deep into Martian rock, deeper than any previous rover or lander.

Image

The percussion drill, in the turret of tools at the end of the robotic arm of the Mars rover Curiosity, touched the rock surface here on January 27. In this view, the drill is positioned on a target on a patch of flat, veined rock called "John Klein." The site is within the "Yellowknife Bay" area of Gale Crater.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout/Reuters

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NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has pounded into a Red Planet rock with its drill for the first time, bringing the 1-ton robot a big step closer to initiating its first full-bore drilling operations.

The Curiosity rover hammered the rock using the arm-mounted drill's percussive action over the weekend, completing another test along the path toward spinning the bit and biting into rock for the first time.

"We tapped this rock on Mars with our drill. Keep it classy everyone," Curiosity flight director Bobak Ferdowsi — who gained fame as "Mohawk Guy" during the rover's nail-biting landing on the night of Aug. 5, 2012 — wrote in a Twitter post Sunday (Feb. 3), sharing a photo of the pounded rock.

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