Achieving a milestone in planetary exploration, NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has succeeded for the first time in drilling into a rock and taking samples from the red planet for analysis, media reports said.
The U.S. space agency said on Saturday that Curiosity used the drill at the end of its robotic arm to dig a tiny hole 1.6 centimeters across and 6.4 centimeters deep on the Martian surface.
The drilling was an important part of the probe's mission of searching for traces of life on Mars. It was the hardest engineering task since Curiosity's landing on Mars in August last, NASA scientists said.
"This is the biggest milestone accomplishment for the Curiosity team since the sky-crane landing last August, another proud day for America," mission chief scientist Prof. John Grotizinger was quoted in the reports as saying.
Curiosity has been probing Gale Crater, a deep bowl sited on Mars' equator, to find out whether past environments at this location could ever have supported life. Getting inside the rocks and the materials obtained may provide some of the most telling evidence.
Engineers have waited six months before deploying the drill tool, which is held on the end of the rover's 2.2-meter-long robotic arm.
Curiosity has already seen plenty of evidence indicating existence of water in Gale Crater, and the drill analysis are expected to shed further light on the matter.
by RTT Staff Writer
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