NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has begun drilling again after a short break. The rover is now using a low-percussion drill for the first time in the mission. The results of the drilling shows amazing results, such as the fact that ancient conditions on the Red Planet used to support liquid water. Scientists were hoping for these types of findings, but didn’t really expect to find them so quickly.
Mars Curiosity drill has one of the most high-tech drills man has ever created. It has six percussion-level settings that range from gentle drilling to vigorous drilling (30 times per second), which is 20 times more powerful than the gentlest drill. The drill is smart, as it adjusts its percussion level on its own based on how slow or how fast it is penetrating the sediment and rock.
The Mars Curiosity rover started digging at percussion-level 1 at the base of Mount Sharp, in Mojave 2. It managed to reach the full depth of 2.6 inches (6.5 cm) in only 10 minutes using just level 2 and level percussion.
NASA chose this particular spot for drilling because it has some unusual conditions of the rock surface. For example, there are some small grain (a bit smaller than the grains of rice) that scientists believe could be salt-mineral crystals or something completely different.
The Mars Curiosity rover has a Chemistry and Mineralogy (also called CheMin) instrument in itself. The sample the rover fed to the CheMin was in powder form and the results of its analysis isn’t yet compete. Scientists believe the results are going to show large amounts of jarosite which could indicate that the Mars soil is much more acidic that found in previous testing. Jarosite is a mineral that is formed in ore deposits by oxidation of iron sulfides and it is found in acidic soils.
David Vaniman, CheMin Deputy Principal Investigator from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, stated that their initial assessment of the most recent samples indicated that there is much more jarosite in the soil than it was in Confidence Hills. The minerals found there by the Mars probe pointed at the soil was formed when the conditions were less acidic.
Image Source: NASA