Curiosity getting ready to drill into Martian rock

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 12:04pm

(CNN) -- Curiosity has identified an area of diverse rocks, which add to the body of evidence that there was once water on Mars, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in an update on the rover's progress given at a press briefing on Tuesday.

These rocks are the first target for Curiosity's drill. The area is named "John Klein," after a Curiosity project manager and longtime Jet Propulsion Laboratory veteran who died in 2011.

Michael Malin, the principal investigator for Mastcam, the two cameras on the rover's mast, said at the briefing that "diversity is always a measure of the number of processes and types of materials" in an area.

The target area has rocks with mineral veins, and others with concretions (small spherical concentrations of minerals) and grains ranging in size from very, very fine to larger than sand. It provides strong evidence for water and piques the interest of the researchers, who say the variety of materials will help paint a picture of the ancient environment on Mars.

Still, the researchers made clear that these findings are preliminary. There is a lot of research to be done, and the drilling Curiosity will do is merely another step in the process of revealing the story of Mars.

The upcoming drilling isn't the only first to mention: Last week, Curiosity used its dust removal tool for the first time to brush off a rock called Ekwir_1. Dusting rocks lets some of Curiosity's instruments get a good look at them, allowing for observation that dust would otherwise obscure.

The Curiosity rover, which remains healthy, touched down on Mars on August 6, 2012.

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