Curiosity looks for life on Mars – level 3
Curiosity, the Mars Rover which landed on the planet six months ago, has set to work and for the first time drilled into the surface of Mars. The powdered sample which it collected could hold the clues as to whether there has been life on the planet.
The pictures beamed back to NASA show a hole about 1.6 centimetres wide and 6.4 centimetres deep. The fine grey dust will be sieved and inspected before being analysed in the robot's onboard laboratories.
It is an historic first in planetary exploration as never before has the interior of a rock on another world been probed in such a way. Drilling is central to the rover's work taking place in Gale Crater which is a deep bowl on Mars' equator. Engineers spent days preparing to use Curiosity's drill and had practice sessions earlier in the week.
Previous probes have used tools to scrape the rock but a drill has never been used before to collect samples. The rover is looking for geologic and chemical conditions needed to support and preserve microbial life.
Interesting words: rover (car), powdered (in a form of powder), clue (something that leads you to the right answer), as to whether (if), beam (send a radio or television signal), sieve (separate small particles from large ones), as (because), probe (explore), probe (machine for exploring).
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