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NASA Curiosity Rover Back in Business Drilling Holes on Mars

More than a year after conducting its last drilling operation on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover is back at it, following a series of remote repairs conducted from Earth.
Curiosity drills new hole on Mars 1 photo
Over the past weekend, the rover managed to collect a new drilled sample of the Red Planet’s Gale Crater rock by using the new technique programmed into it by rocket scientists.

The problem with the rover’s drill was that a faulty motor prevented the drill head from extending and retracting between two stabilizers that pushed against the ground when operation began. That meant the equipment no longer reached the Martian soil. 

NASA went back to the drawing board and created a new way of drilling in the Martian soil, called Feed Extended Drilling, or FED. As a result of the update, now the drill is as its fully extended position all the time.

FED lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm to push its drill forward and pull it back as it spins.

"The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet," said in a statement Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of JPL.

"Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We're thrilled that the result was so successful."

The rock samples, in the form of Martian powder, are to be analyzed inside the rover’s two laboratories via chemical and mineralogical processes.

The drilling operations which took place a few days ago is considered by NASA only a test. More will follow in the months ahead, but not before the sample already collected is safely delivered inside the rover.

NASA engineers are not sure how much of the powder will remain inside the drill while it will be retracted into the rover.

On Friday, NASA will test a new means of delivering the samples, with news of whether it succeeded or not expected sometime next week.


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