National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
Dust from Mars Drilling - Tailings and Discard Piles
Dust from Mars Drilling - Tailings and Discard Piles (click to enlarge)

Dust from Mars Drilling - Tailings and Discard Piles
Date: 8 Apr 2013

This image shows the first holes into rock drilled by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, with drill tailings around the holes plus piles of powdered rock collected from the deeper hole and later discarded after other portions of the sample had been delivered to analytical instruments inside the rover. The image was taken by the telephoto-lens camera of the rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument in early afternoon of the 229th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (29 March 2013). The site is on a patch of flat rock called "John Klein" in the "Yellowknife Bay" area of Mars' Gale Crater.

Each of the drill holes is about 1.6 cm (0.6 inch) in diameter. The one toward the top of the image was drilled on Sol 180 (6 Feb. 2013) as a "mini drill" preparatory test. That test went to a depth of 2 cm (0.8 inch) without collecting any rock powder. The nearer hole is from the first rock-drilling ever to collect a sample on Mars. Curiosity drilled this hole 6.4 cm (2.5 inches) deep on Sol 182 (8 Feb. 2013).

Analysis of the collected John Klein rock sample by the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments inside Curiosity produced evidence of an ancient wet environment that provided favorable conditions for microbial life, including elemental ingredients for life plus a chemical energy gradient such as some terrestrial microbes exploit as an energy source.

The sample processing and delivery tool on Curiosity, called the Collection and Handling for In-situ Martian Rock Analysis, or CHIMRA, put the collected powder through a sieve to screen out particles larger than 150 microns (0.006 inch) across, and then delivered portions of the sieved material to the instruments. After delivering a few portions for analysis over the course of several weeks, CHIMRA released both the material that had not passed through the sieve and the leftover sieved material, dropping them in two piles near the drill hole on Sol 229 (29 March 2013). In this image from a few minutes later, the unsieved material forms a mound to the left of a line between the two holes and the leftover sieved sample material forms a mound to the right.

The image has been white-balanced to show what the rock material would look like if it were on Earth. View the two unannotated versions, white-balanced and raw color (showing what the rock material looks like on Mars to the camera.)

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates Mastcam. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the mission's Curiosity rover for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed and built at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Last Update: 8 Apr 2013 (AMB)

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 8 Apr 2013