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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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TESS, rover, opportunity
NASA Curiosity rover has completed 6 years on Mars. Pixabay

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.

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“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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Building City on Mars Could Cost up to $10 Trillion: Elon Musk

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars

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Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Wikimedia Commons

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has not stopped at lofty talks of colonising Mars. He has even estimated the cost of having a self-sustaining civilization on the Red Planet which is “between $100 billion and $10 trillion”.

Musk tweeted his estimates of building a city on Mars in response to a question posed by the Twitter handle @marstronauts.

So according to the estimate by Musk, building a city on Mars could cost anywhere between 10 per cent of the US’ 2019 military budget and three times the the country’s 2018 tax revenue, Futurism.com reported on Tuesday.

Musk calculated the approximate future cost of sending a minimum payload to Mars “to nearest order of magnitude”, at $100,000 per tonne.

Musk, Neuralink, Brain
Not many people know that Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk owns a startup called Neuralink that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces. Pixabay

So if building a self-sustaining city on Mars requires a million tonnes of cargo, the cost would be around $100 billion, he calculated.

Musk earlier advocated the need of a “backup” planet.

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Speaking in an interview with Axios in November 2018, Musk said that that there is “70 per cent chance that he will go to Mars”, despite a “good chance” of him not surviving either on the way or after landing.

SpaceX is building “Starship” (formerly known as the BFR), a fully reusable vehicle designed to take humans and supplies to Mars. (IANS)