NASA’s rover Curiosity said ‘Goodbye Kimberley’ having fulfilled her objectives of drilling into a cold red sandstone slab, sampling the tantalizing grey colored interior and pelting the fresh bore hole with a pinpoint series of parting laser blasts before seeking new adventures on the road ahead towards the inviting slopes of Mount Sharp, her ultimate destination.
Since then, the 1 ton robot carefully scrutinized the resulting 2.6 inches (6.5 centimeters) deep bore hole and the mound of dark grey colored drill tailings piled around for an up close examination of the texture and composition with the MAHLI camera and spectrometers at the end of her 7-foot-long (2 meters) arm to glean every last drop of science before moving on.
“Windjana” is named after a gorge in Western Australia.
It’s been a full year since the first two drill campaigns were conducted during 2013 at the ‘John Klein’ and ‘Cumberland’ outcrop targets inside Yellowknife Bay. They were both mudstone rock outcrops and the interiors were markedly different in color.
“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.
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.
Windjama lies some 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of Yellowknife Bay.
Curiosity still has about another 4 kilometers to go to reach the foothills of Mount Sharp sometime later this year.
The sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, which reaches 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky, is the six wheeled robots 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.
Source: Universe Today