The rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera recorded this close-up view of the drill test results during the 180th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover tested its rock drill for the first time this week, clearing the way for a detailed chemical analysis of what appears to be water-deposited minerals in a rock at Gale Crater.
Curiosity’s two-year mission, aimed at determining if the planet most like Earth in the solar system could have supported microbial life, began in August, when the rover landed itself inside the 93-mile wide impact crater.
Continue browsing this gallery for more images from Curiosity's drill test.
In an activity called the "mini drill test," NASA's Mars rover Curiosity used its drill to generate this ring of powdered rock for inspection in advance of the rover's first full drilling.NASA/JPL-Caltech
The basin sports a mound of layered sediment, called Mount Sharp, which rises three miles above the crater floor
Curiosity is expected to head over to the mound later this year. In the meantime, it is exploring a site about a quarter of a mile away from where it touched down on Aug. 6. The region, known as Yellowknife Bay, interests scientists because it has three different types of terrain and geologic features that appear to have been formed by running water.
A pair of images taken before (left) and after (right) Curiosity performed a "mini drill test" on a Martian rock -- changes resulting from that activity are shown.NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists want to use the drill to get samples from inside a veined rock, which looks like it holds mineral deposits from flowing water.
"What these vein fills tell us is water percolated through these rocks, through these fracture networks and then minerals precipitated to form the white material ... (which) is very likely a calcium sulfate, probably hydrated in origin," Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger said during a conference call with reporters last month.
Close-up of Curiosity's drill and drill bit shortly before the rover carried out its "mini drill test" on the "John Klein" test drill site.NASA/JPL-Caltech
The rover used its drill to cut a .8-inch hole into a rock named "John Klein," then relayed pictures of its work back to flight controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The drill has two modes of operating -- hammering and rotating -- and Curiosity tested both motions.
Curiosity carries out its "mini drill test" -- drill is in contact with the rock in this photo taken by one of Curiosity's hazcams.NASA/JPL-Caltech
The drill can bore rocks to depths of about two inches. As it drills, powered rock shavings can be passed into instruments for chemical analysis.
Curiosity inspects the drill hole with its robotic arm-mounted Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera.NASA/JPL-Caltech
Sample Analysis at Mars experiment, or SAM, uses a gas chromatograph and two spectrometers to look elements of organic compounds. The Chemistry and Mineralogy, or CheMin, identifies minerals with a technique called X-ray diffraction.
The drill is the last of Curiosity's 10 science instruments to be tested.
A self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013) at the "John Klein" drill site.NASA/JPL-Caltech
"If the drill cuttings on the ground around the fresh hole pass visual evaluation as suitable for processing by the rover's sample handling mechanisms, the rover team plans to proceed with commanding the first full drilling in coming days," NASA said in a statement.