Mars rover Curiosity has sent back pictures confirming it has obtained the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet.
The transfer of the powdered-rock sample into an open scoop could be seen in images received at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
"Seeing the powder from the drill in the scoop allows us to verify for the first time the drill collected a sample as it bore into the rock," JPL's Scott McCloskey, drill systems engineer for Curiosity, said.
"Many of us have been working toward this day for years. Getting final confirmation of successful drilling is incredibly gratifying. For the sampling team, this is the equivalent of the landing team going crazy after the successful touchdown."
In the next stage of processing, the powder would be enclosed and shaken once or twice over a sieve to screen out particles larger than 150 microns across.
Small portions of the sieved sample are to go into an instrument to test its chemistry and mineralogy.
The sample comes from a fine-grained, veiny sedimentary rock selected for the first sample drilling because it may hold evidence of wet environmental conditions long ago.
The rover's laboratory analysis of the powder may provide information about those conditions, Nasa said.
Nasa's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using the Curiosity rover with its 10 science instruments to investigate whether an area within Mars' Gale Crater ever had an environment favourable for microbial life.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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