Critical.
Authoritative.
Strategic.
Subscribe to CIO Magazine »

NASA to Mars rover Curiosity: Drill, baby, drill

Robotic rover heading toward what could be its first drilling site on Martian surface

After about five months on the Martian surface, NASA's rover Curiosity is preparing to drill its first rock on Mars.

NASA announced Tuesday that Curiosity is headed toward a flat rock with pale veins that scientists are hopeful will yield clues to the history of water on the planet. When the SUV-sized rover reaches the rock and if it checks out as planned, it will be the first to be drilled on the Red Planet.

"Drilling into a rock to collect a sample will be this mission's most challenging activity since the landing," said Mars Science Laboratory project manager, Richard Cook. "It has never been done on Mars. The drill hardware interacts energetically with Martian material we don't control. We won't be surprised if some steps in the process don't go exactly as planned the first time through."

The super rover is on a two-year mission to help scientists figure out if Mars has, or has ever had, an environment that could support life, even life in a microbial form.

So far the rover, which carries 17 cameras and 10 scientific instruments, has made some important strides.

Last October, it became the first NASA rover to scoop Martian soil into onboard analytical instruments.

In late September, NASA reported that Curiosity discovered evidence of a thousand-year water flow on Mars. The finding came in the form of an outcropping of rocks that appeared to have been heaved up by a vigorous water flow.

With NASA's plans to drill, scientists plan to analyze the rock and any information about its mineral and chemical composition.

The scientists are hoping the rover will drill on flat-lying bedrock within a shallow depression. Curiosity's science team decided to investigate this area for a first drilling target because orbital images showed fractured ground that cools more slowly each night than nearby terrain does.

"The orbital signal drew us here, but what we found when we arrived has been a great surprise," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. "This area had a different type of wet environment than the streambed where we landed, maybe a few different types of wet environments."

Scientists are intrigued by the rock's veins, which, on Earth, are formed when water circulates in fractures.

The targeted rock has been dubbed "John Klein" in tribute to former Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager John W. Klein, who died in 2011.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Comments are now closed.
Related Coverage
Related Whitepapers
Latest Stories
Community Comments
Tags: hardware, NASA, Emerging Technologies, hardware systems, government, Government/Industries
Latest Blog Posts
Whitepapers
  • Avoiding Common Pitfalls of Evaluating and Implementing DCIM Solutions
    While many who invest in Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software benefit greatly, some do not. Research has revealed a number of pitfalls that end users should avoid when evaluating and implementing DCIM solutions. Choosing an inappropriate solution, relying on inadequate processes, and a lack of commitment / ownership / knowledge can each undermine a chosen toolset’s ability to deliver the value it was designed to provide. This paper describes these common pitfalls and provides practical guidance on how to avoid them.
    Learn more »
  • Profit Magazine: Everything You Know About Sales is Wrong
    Everything You Know About Sales is Wrong. Daniel Pink, author of the book, To Sell Is Human unveils the secrets to selling - what makes sales people tick and the traits that make the best sellers successful in today’s marketplace.
    Learn more »
  • ERP Selection: Finding the Right Fit
    Finding a needle in a hay stack is hard, but the task pales in comparison to finding a specific needle in a pile of needles. Selecting the ideal Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution can feel just as daunting. ERP represents a serious investment for any organisation and is vital to future success. This report explores the strategies organisations are employing to find the right ERP fit that will give them the tools they need to thrive.
    Learn more »
All whitepapers
rhs_login_lockGet exclusive access to Invitation only events CIO, reports & analysis.
Salary Calculator

Supplied by

View the full Peoplebank ICT Salary & Employment Index

Recent comments

Computerworld
ARN
Techworld
CMO