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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay
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After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)

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Red Planet: Mars to Come Closest to Earth in 15 Years Next Month

On July 27, Mars will be in perihelic opposition, Express.co.uk reported on Sunday

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Red Planet: Mars to Come Closest to Earth in 15 Years Next Month. Pixabay

Star gazers could have a good view of the Red Planet next month as Mars is set to come to the closest point to Earth since 2003 when it reaches opposition with the Sun in late July.

This year, Mars opposition will occur on July 27, according to NASA.

During opposition, Mars is especially photogenic because it can be seen fully illuminated by the Sun as viewed from Earth.

“Since Mars and the Sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in ‘opposition’,” NASA explained.

Also Read: Survival Of Mars Rover Is Under Threat Due To A Sandstorm

Every 15 or 17 years, opposition occurs within a few weeks of Mars’ perihelion – the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun.

“An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit. When it happens while the Red Planet is closest to the Sun (called ‘perihelic opposition’), Mars is particularly close to Earth,” NASA said.

On July 27, Mars will be in perihelic opposition, Express.co.uk reported on Sunday.

But some perihelic oppositions bring Earth and Mars closer together than others, the US space agency said.

The 2003 opposition was the closest approach in almost 60,000 years, it added. (IANS)

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