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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 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)

Next Story

China To Launch its First Mars Probe in July This Year

In November last year, China unveiled an experiment simulating the process of a probe hovering, avoiding obstacles and descending to land on Mars

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Mars
This is the first time the country disclosed the launch month of its Mars exploration programme, according to the newspaper which cited sources from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Pixabay

China announced that it will launch its first Mars mission probe in July this year, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday.

This is the first time the country disclosed the launch month of its Mars exploration programme, according to the newspaper which cited sources from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

The Mars probe will be sent by the Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket.

The Long March-5 Y4 rocket has recently completed a 100-second test for its high thrust hydrogen-oxygen engine, which is the last engine examination before the final assembly, Xinhua reported.

According to the CASC, China will send a probe to orbit and land and deploy a rover on Mars.

In 2020, the Long March-5 rocket will carry out several missions, including the Mars probe launch and the lunar sample return.

A total of 24 high thrust hydrogen-oxygen rocket engine tests will be conducted this year for these missions.

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 China announced that it will launch its first Mars mission probe in July this year, China Youth Daily reported on Thursday. Pixabay

In November last year, China unveiled an experiment simulating the process of a probe hovering, avoiding obstacles and descending to land on Mars.

The experiment was held on a trial ground, the largest one in Asia for test landing on extraterrestrial bodies, in Huailai county, Hebei province, reported Xinhua.

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How to safely land on Mars is one of the biggest challenges facing the mission.

The experiment simulated the gravity of Mars, about one-third of the gravity on Earth, to test the design of the lander. (IANS)