The results of this “mini-drill” operation can be seen in the image above: a tiny hole 1.6 cm across and 2 cm deep, a cavity just barely big enough for you to stick your pinky finger into. The event was in preparation of Curiosity’s upcoming big-kid version of this drilling, when it will bore into a rock nicknamed John Klein and analyze the interior of Mars.
The shavings from this mini-drill test will be evaluated to see if they are suitable to be processed by the rover’s scoop and interior lab instruments. They will also be used to rub the drill bit of any remaining contaminants from Earth to ensure a clean sample. If everything checks out, the rover could perform its first major drilling, which will reach a depth of 5 cm, in several days.
If Curiosity completes its full drill in the coming days, it will take a small sample of pulverized material and run it through a battery of tests, likely yielding interesting insights into the watery past of Gale Crater. A closeup of the mini-drill hole taken with the rover’s hand-held MAHLI camera can be seen below, though it seems NASA engineers might have thought a bit more about the label they applied.
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