Feeds

Mars rover Curiosity gets ready to blast its first rock

Taste alpha beams and X rays! In the name of SCIENCE!

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

NASA's nuclear Mars truck Curiosity is poised to start zapping its first rock to find out what it's made of, and is on its way to its first major science destination.

First rock target for Curiosity

The rover is just eight feet from a football-sized rock that's about halfway between its landing site and its first destination "Glenelg". Before it ambles by, Curiosity will blast the rock with its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and snap a few pictures with its Chemistry and Camera Instrument to figure out what elements make up the rock.

The agency has nicknamed the rock "Jake Matijevic", after their colleague and surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory, who passed away last month.

Curiosity is picking up the pace on its roving, having now trundled across the Mars for six days in a row covering distances ranging from 72 to 121 feet.

"This robot was built to rove, and the team is really getting a good rhythm of driving day after day when that's the priority," said MSL project manager Richard Cook.

Once the truck gets to Glenelg, it'll get to use its other rock-probing capability - drilling into the chosen specimens so it can analyse the powder it digs out from the interior.

Boffins can tell that the Martian surface at Glenelg has three different types of terrain, one lighter-toned and another more cratered than the stuff the rover is driving over now. The lighter-toned areas are particularly interesting because, unlike the other two terrains they keep the daytime heat long into the night, so they're probably made of different stuff.

While Curiosity is focused on its rock-blasting mission, it's also had the chance for some sightseeing on its journey. The Mastcam that will help it pick out potential rock targets in Glenelg has also seen dark streaks on the rocks there and has watched the sky to see Mars' two moons, Phobos and Deimos, crossing the sun.

Phobos affects Mars in the same way that our Moon changes Earth's tides, altering its shape. If boffins can narrow down the timing of the orbital change to more precise measurements, they'll be able to figure out more about the interior structure of the Red Planet. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.