[meteorite-list] Drill Here? NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Inspects Site

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat, 26 Apr 2014 14:42:58 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201404262142.s3QLgw7I008457_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Drill Here? NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Inspects Site
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 25, 2014

The team operating NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is telling the rover to
use several tools this weekend to inspect a sandstone slab being evaluated
as a possible drilling target.

If this target meets criteria set by engineers and scientists, it could
become the mission's third drilled rock, and the first that is not mudstone.
The team calls it "Windjana," after a gorge in Western Australia.

The planned inspection, designed to aid a decision on whether to drill
at Windjana, includes observations with the camera and X-ray spectrometer
at the end of the rover's arm, use of a brush to remove dust from a patch
on the rock, and readings of composition at various points on the rock
with an instrument that fires laser shots from the rover's mast.

Curiosity's hammering drill collects powdered sample material from the
interior of a rock, and then the rover prepares and delivers portions
of the sample to onboard laboratory instruments. The first two Martian
rocks drilled and analyzed this way were mudstone slabs neighboring each
other in Yellowknife Bay, about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) northeast of
the rover's current location at a waypoint called "the Kimberley." Those
two rocks yielded evidence of an ancient lakebed environment with key
chemical elements and a chemical energy source that provided conditions
billions of years ago favorable for microbial life.

>From planned drilling at Windjana or some nearby location on sandstone
at the Kimberley, Curiosity's science team hopes to analyze the cement
that holds together the sand-size grains in the rock.

"We want to learn more about the wet process that turned sand deposits
into sandstone here," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger,
of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "What was the composition
of the fluids that bound the grains together? That aqueous chemistry is
part of the habitability story we're investigating."

Understanding why some sandstones in the area are harder than others also
could help explain major shapes of the landscape where Curiosity is working
inside Gale Crater. Erosion-resistant sandstone forms a capping layer
of mesas and buttes. It could even hold hints about why Gale Crater has
a large layered mountain, Mount Sharp, at its center.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient
habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built the rover
and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

The spectrometer on the rover's robotic arm is the Alpha Particle X-Ray
Spectrometer (APXS), which was provided by the Canadian Space Agency.
The camera on the arm is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), built and
operated by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. The laser on the mast
is part of the Chemistry and Camera instrument (ChemCam), from the U.S.
Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and
the French national space agency, CNES. The rover's wire-bristle brush,
the Dust Removal Tool, was built by Honeybee Robotics, New York.

For more information about Curiosity, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl
, http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. You can follow
the mission on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on
Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Received on Sat 26 Apr 2014 05:42:58 PM PDT

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb