NASA's Curiosity rover has tested its first sample of a Martian region called "the unit that carries clay" at Mount Sharp, the US space agency said.
Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed "Aberlady" on April 6, the 2,370th day, or sun, of the mission, and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy laboratory on Wednesday, NASA said in a statement.
The rover's drill chewed easily through the rock, unlike some of the tougher targets it faced near Vera Rubin Ridge.
In fact, it was so soft that the drill did not need to use its percussion technique, which is useful for hooking samples of harder rock.
This was the first sample of the mission obtained using only the rotation of the bit.
"Curiosity has been on the road for almost seven years," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, USA. UU
"Finally, drilling in the clay unit is an important milestone in our trip to Mount Sharp," said Erickson.
Scientists are eager to badyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they are usually formed in water.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) saw a strong clay "signal" here long before curiosity landed in 2012.
Identifying the source of that signal could help the scientific team understand if a more humid Martian epoch shaped this layer of Mount Sharp, the 5-kilometer-high mountain's Curiosity has been climbing.
Curiosity has discovered clay minerals in clay stones throughout their journey. These mudstones were formed when the sediments of the rivers settled in ancient lakes almost 3,500 million years ago. As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up.
April 13, 2019 17:23 IST