Curiosity rover ready to start drilling again

A view of Cumberland, where Curiosity will begin drilling again soon. Credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech / MSSS

A view of Cumberland, where Curiosity will begin drilling again soon.
Credit: NASA-JPL / Caltech / MSSS

After just coming out of its month-long “vacation” due to solar conjunction, the Curiosity rover is ready to resume science operations, and do some more drilling, it was reported last Thursday.

The second drilling site has now been chosen, a piece of bedrock called Cumberland, which is only about 2.75 metres (9 feet) from the first drilling site, John Klein.

Analysis of the John Klein material provided evidence that this area was once underwater, and the water was non-acidic (pH neutral), a favourable environment for possible microbial life.

It is hoped that analysis of Cumberland after drilling will also re-confirm the earlier findings.

Both drilling locations are in a depression called Yellowknife Bay, inside Gale crater. Curiosity has already also found evidence that an ancient river or stream once flowed in this area, near the landing site. At least part, or most, of Gale crater is thought to have once contained a shallow lake as well, making this area an ideal target for exploration.

Later, Curiosity will begin its months-long trek toward 5-kilometre (3-mile) tall Mount Sharp in the middle of Gale crater. The layers, foothills, mesas and canyons here are very similar to the scenery in the American southwest and provide a look into the rich geological history of this region.

This article was first published on Examiner.com.

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