NASA's Curiosity rover preparing to drill on Mars



NASA`s Curiosity rover preparing to drill on Mars Los Angeles: NASA says the Curiosity rover should be ready to begin drilling on Mars soon. It's the most highly anticipated milestone since the six-wheel, nuclear-powered rover landed near the Martian equator five months ago.

The drilling, expected to start this month, will dig five holes about five centimeters into bedrock the size of a throw rug.

The drilling, expected to start this month, will dig five holes about five centimeters into the bedrock.

Mission managers outlined the drilling plan on Tuesday. Project manager Richard Cook says the team has chosen the site where Curiosity will test its drill for the first time. The spot contains a diverse sample of rocks, many of which were clearly deposited in water.

Researchers from the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team described how the laser instrument aboard the Curiosity Rover -- an SUV-sized vehicle studying the surface of the Red Planet -- has detected veins of gypsum running through an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located some 700 meters away from where the Curiosity Rover landed five months ago.

“These veins are composed mainly of hydrated calcium sulfate, such as bassinite or gypsum,” ChemCam team member Nicolas Mangold of the Laboratoire de Planetologie et Geodynamique de Nantes, in Nantes, France, said.

Curiosity will drive to the location in the next several days and begin drilling in the next two weeks.

The team named the drilling site "John Klein" after a deputy project manager who died in 2011.

Curiosity is on a two-year mission to determine whether the dusty, cold planet was habitable.

PTI