US space agency Nasa’s Mars Rover Curiosity has conducted drilling in its first hole in the foothills of martian mountain, Mount Sharp.
Mount Sharp, the 5-kilometre-high mountain on the red planet, has been the main destination for the six-wheeled Curiosity rover.
While drilling on the tough surface of the Mt. Sharp, the hammering drill of the rover chewed about 2.6 inches depth into a basal-layer outcrop on the Mars mountain last week and collected samples of a powdered-rock that were temporarily held within the sample-handling mechanism on the Curiosity’s arm.
Detailing about the development, Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said, “This drilling target is at the lowest part of the base layer of the mountain, and from here we plan to examine the higher, younger layers exposed in the nearby hills.”
“This first look at rocks we believe to underlie Mt. Sharp is exciting because it will begin to form a picture of the environment at the time the mountain formed and what led to its growth,” said Vasavada.
Since its landing on the Martian surface in August 2012, the Curiosity rover had spent much of its time exploring an area that is much closer to the landing site, however, in the opposite direction. The Curiosity mission has also accomplished its science goals in the Yellowknife Bay area. Following analysis of the drilled rocks there, researchers found an ancient lake-bed environment which is more than three billion years ago. NASA scientists believe the new finding would offer ingredients and a chemical energy gradient favourable for microbes if they have existed there.
The NASA officials said that the priority of the rover has changed from Yellowknife Bay to the base of Mount Sharp. Now the mission operations will not emphasis on drive, drive and drive but will carry systematic layer-by-layer investigation of the Martian surface and environment.