Mars rover takes rock samples; is life possible on planet?

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Pasadena, CA, United States (4E) – The Mars rover Curiosity has drilled a hole into a rock on the Red Planet to put collected rock powder on its built-in laboratory instruments for analysis, according to NASA.

The car-sized Curiosity sent images of the drilled rock to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena on Saturday and the next several days will see ground controllers command the planetary robot’s arm to process the rock powder sample and deliver portions of it to instruments inside Curiosity.

Based on the image sent to JPL, the drilled hole is 0.63 inch wide and 2.5 inches deep. The drilled rock is on a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock in an area of the planet called Gale’s Crater.

The Curiosity has a device that handles and analyzes the rock powder for any evidence that its ground source was once part of a wet environment that could sustain life on the planet. The analysis process involves vibrating the powder over a sieve so finer samples will fall through ports on the rover deck into instruments that will perform detailed analysis of the samples.

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