In a first, the Mars rover Curiosity has penetrated a rock on the Red Planet and collected a sample from its interior, the US space agency announced Saturday.
Using a drill at the end of its robotic arm, Curiosity bore a hole 0.6 inches (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep into the rock, generating powder for evaluation, NASA said in a statement.
"The most advanced planetary robot ever designed now is a fully operating analytical laboratory on Mars," said agency official John Grunsfeld.
"This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America."
The rock Curiosity targeted -- described as flat and veiny -- is believed to hold evidence about "long-gone wet environments," NASA said, adding it is named "John Klein" in memory of a Mars Science Laboratory deputy project manager who died in 2011.
Over the coming days ground controllers will command the rover's arm to carry out steps to process the sample.