NASA's Curiosity rover successfully drilled a 2-inch-deep hole in a target called "Duluth" on May 20. It was the first rock sample captured by the drill since October 2016. This image was taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2057. It has been white balanced and contrast-enhanced. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
A close-up image of a 2-inch-deep hole produced using a new drilling technique for NASA's Curiosity rover. The hole is about 0.6 inches across (1.6 centimeters). This image was taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sol 2057. It has been white balanced and contrast-enhanced. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Demonstrating that Curiosity's percussive drilling technique works is a milestone in itself. But that doesn't mean the work is over for engineers at JPL.
"We've been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn't done once a sample has been collected on Mars," said JPL's Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity's new drilling method. "With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process."
There's also the next step to work on: delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover. Having captured enough powder inside the drill, engineers will now use the rover's cameras to estimate how much trickles out while running the drill backwards. The drill’s percussion mechanism is also used to tap out powder.
As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover's laboratories.
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