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Robot Smash! Curiosity Shatters Mars Rock Slab

In new photographs sent to Earth from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, you'd be forgiven in thinking that the one-ton robot has botched some home repairs.

In new photographs sent to Earth from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the one-ton robot has botched some home repairs.

PHOTOS: Curiosity Snaps Selfies, Begins Mars Rock Drill

Captured on Sol 867 (Tuesday, Jan. 13) by the Mars Science Laboratory's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), the photos show a flat, dusty slab before the rover's robotic arm-mounted drill started boring into the rock.

In a followup shot of the same slab an hour later, long cracks shatter the rock, an obvious sign that drilling operations had to cease. The rover science team will now seek out another location to drill.

Test drills are essential before mission managers decide which rocks are suitable for full drilling operations, which see Curiosity's powerful drill bit sink around 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) below rock surfaces. Rock samples need to hold firm and must not shatter.

PHOTOS: Curiosity Drills Hole Into Mars Rock

Previously, other rocky candidates have wobbled on closer inspection and they can shatter. In these cases, to avoid damage to Curiosity's drilling instrumentation, they are considered not suitable and other scientifically interesting samples are sought out.

Curiosity has analyzed the dusty material from previous drilling operations to discover that Mars was once a lot wetter and has even detected organic material in these samples - all evidence that Mars used to be a lot more habitable than it is now.

NEWS: Curiosity Does Drilling U-Turn on Wobbly Mars Rock

As news of the rocky carnage surfaced on BBC News, Curiosity's outspoken and brilliantly entertaining parody Twitter account, @SarcasticRover, declared: "LET THAT BE A LESSON TO THE REST OF THEM!"

On reaching out to the first rock that Curiosity blasted with its ChemCam laser back in 2012, @N165Mars (a.k.a. "Coronation") was not immediately available for comment, but is likely traumatized by the graphic imagery coming from Gale Crater.

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

via BBC News

Above are before and after images by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) of the shattered rock on Jan. 13, 2014. The red "x" marks the approximate location of the drill entry point.