NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover re-drills rock samples after a 60-million-mile repair



It is difficult to tackle even the simplest jobs when tools are broken and the nearest hardware store is 60 million miles away. And that has been precisely the challenge that NASA's Curiosity rover has faced on Mars since December 2016, when the exercise that the robot uses to study rocks was broken.

NASA engineers spent the next year and a half figuring out an alternative solution that would allow doing their geology despite the busted part, and on Sunday, Curiosity successfully drilled its first hole.

That hole, about two inches deep and just over half an inch wide, was embedded in a rock Curiosity's guides called Duluth. The rover actually had to backtrack to take the sample.

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Scientists decided it was worth the effort because the area, called Vera Rubin Ridge, seems to be made of clay-rich material. It is a type of rock that Curiosity had not drilled before during its explorations in Mount Sharp.

"Each layer of Mount Sharp reveals a chapter in the history of Mars," Ashwin Vasavada, a planetary scientist who works at Curiosity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. "Without the drill, our first step through this layer was like pbading the chapter, now we have the opportunity to read it in detail"

The robot has always relied on a drill to pulverize powder rock, which can then be badyzed using X-rays to identify which minerals are present. The original drilling system was carefully designed so that the mobile could disbademble and replace a stuck drill bit.

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But the big problem came in December 2016, when the drill of the rover stopped spreading correctly. Now, thanks to NASA's alternative solution, instead of extending and retracting the tip of the drill, the entire mechanism is permanently extended. It's a bit less stable than the original configuration, but as Curiosity tested on Sunday, it does the job.

The robot soon took a photo of his achievement to send home to the scientists, who hopefully have posted it in the kitchen of the fridge door office as the proud parents they are.

This article was written for the first time by Newsweek

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