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.
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.
Curiosity's drill can bore 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) into Martian rock, deeper than any rover has been able to go before. Using the drill and its associated systems is a complex operation, so the mission team has been building up slowly to the first drilling activity on the Red Planet.
Last week, Curiosity performed some "pre-load" tests, pressing down on a rock with its drill in several different places to see if the amount of force applied matches predictions.
The six-wheeled robot has also been carefully evaluating its target rock, which is part of an outcrop the mission team has named "John Klein," after a former Curiosity deputy project manager who died in 2011.