The Mars Curiosity Rover has drilled a hole in Mars for the first time yesterday. Curiosity used the drill at the tip of its robotic arm to drill a small .8 inch (2 centimeter) hole into the Martian rock affectionately named “John Klein”. The so-called "mini-drill test" marked the first time Curiosity used both the hammer and rotating action of its Mars drill. The drill pulverized the rock into powder which can then be used in sample-collection tests.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, or MRO, has discovered an interesting process on the surface of Mars – exploding sand dunes! Enormous pressure from underground frozen carbon dioxide deposits is being released through the surface creating feathery looking sand dunes in Mar’s northern hemisphere. The results of these new studies will be published in the journal Icarus and were made from observations by MRO over three Martian years (six Earth years).
No spacecraft has ever penetrated the rocky surface of Mars, or any planet for that matter, but that is about to change. In the past few weeks, Curiosity Rover has been stationed in a region called Yellowknife Bay, which features fractured ground with different temperature swings compared to other nearby terrain – and plenty of evidence of flowing water. The rover’s suite of instruments has been doing the initial reconnaissance, including several laser blasts with the ChemCam spectrometer. ChemCam has been seeing signs of possible gypsum, or other hydrated calcium sulfates. Some of the minerals found are sedimentary which means there was likely water in the fractures at some point in time. Drilling into them will provide more answers. Curiosity will spin its drill bit for the first time in about two weeks.
Not content with simply blasting civilians into the stratosphere, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, is now aiming his sights towards starting a Mars colony of up to 80,000 people. Once the infrastructure is in place, Musk intends to ferry people to Mars at a cost of $500,000 per head.
NPR reported today that NASA has some '”big news” to report – but will not release the finding until they've had more time to confirm the results. According to NASA: “We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting, The science team is busily chewing away on it as it comes down. This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good.”
NASA’s Curiosity Rover has sent back a high-res photo of itself in the Gale crater on Mars. The image was taken by Curiosity’s MAHLI hand held camera which sits on the end of the rover’s extendable arm. MAHLI took a total of 55 pictures which were stitched together to create the stunning hi-res self portrait. Note that in the background is 3-mile-high Mount Sharp which Curiosity will be climbing in a few years.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover conducted its first soil sample analysis using its miniaturized X-Ray diffraction instrument that is a part of CheMin instrument (a miniature lab on wheels). The soil sample was collected from an area known as Rocknest in the Gale Crater. The analysis revealed that the sample is a weathered volcanic type similar to the soil found on the Hawaiian Islands.
Scientists at the European Geosciences Union meeting reported that Lichen collected from Antarctica were placed inside Germany’s Mars Simulation Laboratory for 34 days where they were subjected to the same conditions they would experience on the Martian surface – same atmospheric, temperature, radiation, and pressure conditions. They survived.
Curiosity Rover scooped its first soil samples yesterday and while scooping, took a picture of something that NASA cannot identify. It’s a small, silver metallic looking chip or flake of some kind. It could be something left over from the MSL descent mechanisms or some previously unknown soil anomaly.
NASA announced today (on the evening of Sol 51), that Curiosity Rover has found evidence of an ancient flowing stream on Mars at a few sites. Round-shaped rocks, called clasts, have lead Geologists to the conclusion that they have been moved about by water. The clasts are too heavy to have been moved by wind.
This past weekend, on route to Glenelg, the Curiosity Rover’s first target on Mars, Curiosity arrived at the “Jake Matijevic” rock where it stopped and probed the rock with its huge robotic arm to determine its chemical composition. Curiosity also blasted the specimen with its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer. Then Curiosity shot laser pulses at the rock with its ChemCam located on the top of its mast in order to verify the chemical findings.