Nasa's Curiosity rover readying to drill on Mars
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Scientists have zeroed in on a Martian target for the Curiosity rover to drill into: A rock outcrop as flat as a pool table that's expected to yield fresh insight into the red planet's history.
Running a tad behind schedule, Curiosity was due to arrive at the site in the next several days. After an inspection of the surroundings, the car-size rover will test its drill for the first time "probably in the next two weeks," project manager Richard Cook of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Tuesday.
The highly anticipated drilling has been billed as the most complex engineering task since the acrobatic landing inside a Martian crater last summer. Curiosity is on a quest to determine whether environmental conditions could have been favourable for microbes.
By boring into a rock and transferring the powder to the rover's onboard chemistry lab and other instruments, scientists should get a better handle on the region's mineral and chemical makeup.