Curiosity Drills Deep Into 3rd Mars Rock at ‘Kimberley’ for Enticing Science Bounty

Curiosity’s Panoramic view of Mount Remarkable at ‘The Kimberley Waypoint’ where rover conducted 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  Featured on APOD - Astronomy Picture of the Day on May 7, 2014

Curiosity’s Panoramic view of Mount Remarkable at “The Kimberley Waypoint” where the rover conducted its third 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
Featured on APOD – Astronomy Picture of the Day on May 7, 2014

NASA’s car-sized rover Curiosity has successfully bored deep into the enticing bumpy textures of a sandstone slab at “Kimberley” and collected powdery samples from the interior of the Red Planet outcrop target dubbed “Windjana” earlier this week, on Monday, May 5, Sol 621.

The 1-ton robot is now processing the precious Martian rocks for delivery to her miniaturized chemistry labs to unlock clues about habitability on the alien world. See our photo mosaics above and below.

“Windjana” is only the third rock target Curiosity has acquired samples from on the Red Planet since the unprecedented sky crane landing on Aug. 6, 2012.

Composite photo mosaic shows deployment of NASA Curiosity rovers robotic arm and two holes after drilling into ‘Windjana’ sandstone rock on May 5, 2014, Sol 621, at Mount Remarkable as missions third drill target for sample analysis by rover’s chemistry labs.  The navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 621, May 5, 2014 and colorized.   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Composite photo mosaic shows deployment of NASA Curiosity rovers robotic arm and two holes after drilling into “Windjana” sandstone rock on May 5, 2014, Sol 621, at Mount Remarkable as missions third drill target for sample analysis by the rover’s chemistry labs. The navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 621, May 5, 2014, and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

It’s also Curiosity’s first drilling campaign in a year since departing the ancient lakebed region at “Yellowknife Bay” last summer, at the start of her epic 10-kilometer-long (6-mile) trek to towering Mount Sharp, the primary destination of the mission.

“Windjana” also counts as the first sandstone rock being analyzed. Both prior drill samples came from mudstone rock outcrops.

Images transmitted back to Earth on Tuesday, May 6, Sol 622, confirmed that the robot’s hammering drill positioned at the end the 7-foot-long (2-meter) arm had accomplished the programmed task precisely as planned.

Furthermore, there was no damage to the drill.

The fresh, full-depth hole at “Windjana” is clearly visible in the images and measures 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter and about 2.6 inches (6.5 centimeters) deep.

The full-depth hole is just a few centimeters away from the much shallower “mini-drill” test hole bored initially at Windjana on April 29 to determine its suitability for achieving the science requirements needed prior to delivery to the pair of onboard chemistry labs in the rover’s belly, SAM and CheMin.

This May 5, 2014, image (Sol 621) from the Navigation Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows two holes at top center drilled into a sandstone target called “Windjana.” The farther hole was created by the rover’s drill while it collected rock-powder sample material from the interior of the rock that will be fed to the rovers chemistry labs for analysis. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This May 5, 2014, image (Sol 621) from the Navigation Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows two holes at top center drilled into a sandstone target called “Windjana.” The farther hole was created by the rover’s drill while it collected rock-powder sample material from the interior of the rock that will be fed to the rovers chemistry labs for analysis. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The “Windjana” outcrop is located at the base of the 5-meter-tall (16-foot) butte named “Mount Remarkable” located at “The Kimberley Waypoint,” a science stopping point reached by the rover in early April 2014.

To see the gorgeous terrain being inspected by Curiosity today, check out our photo mosaics of “Kimberley” and “Mount Remarkable” hereincreated by the image processing team of Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo.

Our image of “Mount Remarkable” was also featured at Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, here.

Curiosity snaps a new 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.  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

Curiosity snaps a new 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. 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

“Mount Remarkable” is named after a national park in South Australia.

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

The residual pile of drill tailings left behind is much darker in color compared to the other two drill campaigns at the “John Klein” and “Cumberland” target in Yellowknife Bay. And also completely different from Mars ubiquitous red color seen most everywhere else.

“The drill tailings from this rock are darker-toned and less red than we saw at the two previous drill sites,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, Tempe, deputy principal investigator for Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam).

“This suggests that the detailed chemical and mineral analysis that will be coming from Curiosity’s other instruments could reveal different materials than we’ve seen before. We can’t wait to find out!”

The science team chose Windjana for drilling “to analyze the cementing material that holds together sand-size grains in this sandstone,” says NASA.

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

“The Windjana material was transferred to the CHIMRA [sample processing] system for CheMin analysis,” wrote science team member John Bridges in a mission update.

The material will first be pulverized and sieved prior to delivery to the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument (SAM) for chemical and compositional analysis.

The tailing will also be analyzed by ChemCam and the APXS mineral spectrometer, reports Bridges.

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 navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 612, April 26, 2014 and colorized.   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 mission’s third drill target inside Gale Crater on Mars. The navcam raw images were stitched together from several Martian days up to Sol 612, April 26, 2014, and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

“There are also some clasts or perhaps nodules around the drill area, it is important to get a combination of the composition of the material around the drill hole to compare with the mineralogy determined by X-ray diffraction,” Bridges noted.

Kimberley lies about halfway along the path to Mount Sharp.

Windjana is about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of Yellowknife Bay.

The sedimentary foothills of Mount Sharp reach some 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky and is the robot’s ultimate destination inside Gale Crater because it holds caches of water-altered minerals. Such minerals could possibly indicate locations that sustained potential Martian life forms, past or present, if they ever existed.

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 agoand thereby already 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 the 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 still has about 4 kilometers to go to reach the base of Mount Sharp sometime later this year, but must first survive the unavoidable passage through a potentially treacherous dune field.

To date, Curiosity’s odometer totals 3.8 miles (6.1 kilometers) since touchdown inside Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012.

The six-wheeled robot has some 4 kilometers to go to reach the base of Mount Sharp.

She has snapped over 147,000 images.

And the new MAVEN and MOM orbiters from NASA and India are streaking toward the Red Planet for orbital insertion in September 2014.

Stay tuned here for continuing updates.

Ken Kremer

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1 comment to Curiosity Drills Deep Into 3rd Mars Rock at ‘Kimberley’ for Enticing Science Bounty

  • Incredible images for human eyes along with intriguing analysis of the Martian surface for all of us to share! Each new report is eagerly anticipated as we learn more about the Red Planet.