• This is a major milestone for the mission, say scientists
  • Curiosity rover will start analysing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year.
  • On May 20, a technique called “Feed extended drilling” allowed Curiosity to drill its first rock sample since October 2016.
  • On May 31, an additional technique called “Feed extended sample transfer” successfully trickled rock powder into the rover for processing by its mineralogy laboratory.
  • Testing of both the new drilling method and sample delivery will continue to be refined as Curiosity’s engineers study their results from Mars.

What about the New delivery method?

  • The sample transfer technique allows Curiosity to position its drill over two small inlets on top of the rover’s deck, trickling in the appropriate amount of rock powder for the onboard laboratories to do their analyses.
  • However, that’s here on Earth; on Mars, the thin, dry atmosphere provides very different conditions for powder falling out of the drill.
  • On Mars we have to try and estimate visually whether this is working, just by looking at images of how much powder falls out.
  • Too little powder, and the laboratories can’t provide accurate analyses.
  • Too much, and it could overfill the instruments, clogging parts or contaminating future measurements.
  • A successful test of the delivery method on May 22 led to even further improvements in the delivery technique.