Scientists working with NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover have been excited to explore a region called “the clay-bearing unit” since before the spacecraft launched. Now, the rover has finally tasted its first sample from this part of Mount Sharp. Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed “Aberlady” on Saturday, April 6 (the 2,370th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy lab on Wednesday, April 10 (Sol 2374).
The rover’s drill chewed easily through the rock, unlike some of the tougher targets it faced nearby on Vera Rubin Ridge. It was so soft, in fact, that the drill didn’t need to use its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock. This was the mission’s first sample obtained using only rotation of the drill bit.
“Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years,” said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Finally drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp.”
Scientists are eager to analyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they usually form in water. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spied a strong clay “signal” here long before Curiosity landed… [More at link]