CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, dispatched to learn if the planet ever had ingredients for life, drilled its first bit of powder from inside a potentially water-formed ancient rock, scientists said on Wednesday.
The robotic geology station, which landed inside a giant impact basin on Aug. 6 for a two-year mission, transferred about a tablespoon of rock powder from its drill into a scoop, pictures relayed by the rover Wednesday showed.
"We're all very happy to get this confirmation and relieved that the drilling was a complete success," Curiosity engineer Scott McCloskey of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told reporters on a conference call.
On Feb. 8, the rover used its powerful drill, the first instrument of its type to be sent to Mars, to bore inside a flat, veined piece of bedrock, which appears to contain minerals formed by flowing water.
The sample, retrieved from at least 2 inches (5 cm) beneath the surface of the rock, will be sieved and portions of it processed inside two onboard science instruments.