Curiosity Bores into Kimberley rock after Inspection Unveils Enticing Bumpy Textures

by Ken Kremer on April 30, 2014

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Curiosity snaps selfie at Kimberley waypoint with towering Mount Sharp backdrop on April 27, 2014 (Sol 613). Inset shows MAHLI camera image of rovers mini-drill test operation on April 29, 2014 (Sol 615) into “Windjama” rock target at Mount Remarkable butte.  Mastcam color photo mosaic assembled from raw images snapped on Sol 613, April 27, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Curiosity snaps selfie at Kimberley waypoint with towering Mount Sharp backdrop on April 27, 2014 (Sol 613). Inset shows MAHLI camera image of rovers mini-drill test operation on April 29, 2014 (Sol 615) into “Windjana” rock target at Mount Remarkable butte. MAHLI color photo mosaic assembled from raw images snapped on Sol 613, April 27, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
See more Curiosity photo mosaics below

Three days ago, the burning question was “To Drill or not to Drill?”

The answer has come Fast and Furious – “Drill, Baby, Drill !”

After spending the weekend inspecting an enticing slab of sandstone rock at “Kimberley”, the team directed NASA’s Curiosity rover to bore a test hole into a Martian rock target called “Windjana” on Tuesday, April 29, Sol 615, that exhibited interesting bumpy textures. See above our illustrative “Kimberley” photo mosaic.

“A decision about full drilling is planned in coming days,” NASA JPL press officer Guy Webster told me today.

Hazcam fisheye camera image shows Curiosity drilling into “Windjana”  rock target  on April 29, 2014 (Sol 615).  Flattened and colorized image shows Mount Remarkable butte backdrop.  Credit: NASA/JPL/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Hazcam fisheye camera image shows Curiosity drilling into “Windjana” rock target on April 29, 2014 (Sol 615). Flattened and colorized image shows Mount Remarkable butte backdrop. Credit: NASA/JPL/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Engineers commanded Curiosity to perform the so called “mini-drill” operation at “Windjana”- as the site of the robots third drilling operation since touching down on the Red Planet back in August 2012.

The 1 ton robot drilled a test hole 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter and to a depth of about 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) using the hammering drill at the terminus of the robotic arm.

Windjana is an outcrop of sandstone located at the base of a Martian butte named Mount Remarkable at “The “Kimberley” waypoint – a science stopping point reached by the rover in early April 2014 along its epic trek to towering Mount Sharp, the primary destination of the mission.

See our photo mosaics illustrating Curiosity’s science activities and drilling operations on “Windjana” and roving around the “Mount Remarkable” butte at “The Kimberley Waypoint” – above and below – by the image processing team of Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer.

Multisol composite photo mosaic shows deployment of Curiosity’s rovers robotic arm and APXS X-ray spectrometer onto the ‘Winjana’ rock target at Mount Remarkable for evaluation as missions third drill target inside Gale Crater on Mars.  The colorized navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 612, April 26, 2014.   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Multisol composite photo mosaic shows deployment of Curiosity’s rovers robotic arm and APXS X-ray spectrometer onto the ‘Winjana’ rock target at Mount Remarkable for evaluation as missions third drill target inside Gale Crater on Mars. The colorized navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 612, April 26, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

The team is evaluating the resulting hole and powdery, gray colored tailings with the arm’s high resolution MAHLI camera and other instruments to determine whether to follow up with a deep drilling operation to a depth of 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters).

To prepare for the “mini drill” operation, Curiosity first brushed the candidate drill site off with the wire-bristle Dust Removal Tool (DRT) this past weekend, to clear away obscuring Red Planet dirt and dust hindering observations with the cameras and spectrometers.

“In the brushed spot, we can see that the rock is fine-grained, its true color is much grayer than the surface dust, and some portions of the rock are harder than others, creating the interesting bumpy textures,” said Curiosity science team member Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena., in a NASA statement

“All of these traits reinforce our interest in drilling here in order understand the chemistry of the fluids that bound these grains together to form the rock.”

“Windjana,” is named after a gorge in Western Australia.

Curiosity’s Panoramic view of Mount Remarkable at ‘The Kimberley Waypoint’ where rover will conduct 3rd drilling campaign inside Gale Crater on Mars.  The navcam raw images were taken on Sol 603, April 17, 2014, stitched and colorized.   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Curiosity’s Panoramic view of Mount Remarkable at ‘The Kimberley Waypoint’ where rover will conduct 3rd drilling campaign inside Gale Crater on Mars. The navcam raw images were taken on Sol 603, April 17, 2014, stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Why was Kimberley chosen as a science destination ?

“The Kimberley” has interesting, complex stratigraphy,” Curiosity Principal Investigator John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, told me.

If the team decides that Windjana meets the required criteria, Curiosity will bore a full depth hole into the sandstone rock, and then pulverize and filter it prior to delivery to the two onboard miniaturized chemistry labs – SAM and CheMin.

Windjana would be the first sandstone drill target, if selected. The first two drill locations at ‘John Klein’ and ‘Cumberland’ inside Yellowknife Bay were mudstone.

Curiosity departed the ancient lakebed at the Yellowknife Bay region in July 2013 where she discovered a habitable zone with the key chemical elements and a chemical energy source that could have supported microbial life billions of years ago – and thereby accomplished the primary goal of the mission.

Curiosity scans scientifically intriguing rock outcrops of gorgeous Martian terrain at ‘The Kimberley’ waypoint in search of next drilling location beside Mount Remarkable butte, at right.  Mastcam color photo mosaic assembled from raw images snapped on Sol 590, April 4, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Curiosity scans scientifically intriguing rock outcrops of gorgeous Martian terrain at ‘The Kimberley’ waypoint in search of next drilling location beside Mount Remarkable butte, at right. Mastcam color photo mosaic assembled from raw images snapped on Sol 590, April 4, 2014. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Curiosity, Opportunity, Chang’e-3, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Curiosity Mars rover captured this panoramic view of a butte called "Mount Remarkable" and surrounding outcrops at “The Kimberley " waypoint on April 11, 2014, Sol 597. Colorized navcam photomosaic was stitched by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Curiosity Mars rover captured this panoramic view of a butte called “Mount Remarkable” and surrounding outcrops at “The Kimberley ” waypoint on April 11, 2014, Sol 597. Colorized navcam photomosaic was stitched by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Jeffrey Boerst May 1, 2014 at 4:25 AM

Does the team ever make clear to outsiders what the qualities/properties the target needs for drilling would encompass?

eSpace May 1, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Great mosaics! Thanks, Ken!

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