Curiosity Mars rover drills into base of Mount Sharp
Curiosity rover has drilled its first full hole in Martian rock since May. The robot used its power tool to grind out a sample from a pale, flat slab at a location dubbed "Pahrump Hills". Curiosity has previously drilled into three rocks to collect powdered tailings for analysis in its sophisticated onboard laboratories.
This latest acquisition should give scientists a taster for the type of sediments that lie ahead. The Nasa rover is driving into the nearby foothills of Mount Sharp, a 5km peak at the centre of Mars' Gale Crater. Researchers hope the chemistry of the rocks at the base of this mountain will reveal new details about the environmental history of Mars.
Already, the one-tonne robot has established that a lake and rivers were present on the floor of Gale billions of years ago. Scientists say conditions during those ancient times could have supported micro-organisms - had they been present. Curiosity has spent much of the past year simply driving, trying to get to Mount Sharp, which was always intended to be its primary mission target.