Curiosity rolls over onto Martian WET PATCH, takes satisfied selfie

That felt soooo good, say mission boffins, as rover's drill finally gets hard again

his low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." The MAHLI camera on Curiosity's robotic arm took multiple images on Aug. 5, 2015, that were stitched together into this selfie. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
his low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." The MAHLI camera on Curiosity's robot

The Curiosity Rover has found the wettest patch of ground it's yet observed on Mars.

The nuclear-powered laser-packing space tank has spent the last week or so in the "Marias Pass" region where it unleashed its drill to turn parts of a rock named “Buckskin” to powder.

That powder's since been subjected to analysis by Curiosity's Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument, which has found that “The ground about 1 meter beneath the rover in this area holds three or four times as much water as the ground anywhere else Curiosity has driven during its three years on Mars," according to DAN principal investigator Igor Mitrofanov.

So much water, that DAN spotted an interesting result in passive mode. Curiosity's drivers therefore rolled the rover back over the wet patch to let DAN do a proper job.

Mission boffins are pleased with the Rover's recent performance because the Buckskin drilling was the first Curiosity has carried out since February. Drilling's been off the agenda since May, when the trundling robot reported a couple of short circuits. They've not been detected since, hence the return to Mars-poking action.

Curiosity's now continuing its trek up Mount Sharp, a feature chosen as it offers lots of lovely strata to examine. It's hoped that by looking at Mars' many layers we can figure out more of the planet's geological history and why it's ended up so cold, airless and nasty. ®

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