Curiosity drilling again in Gale Crater. Bob Zimmerman

Mar 03, 01:35 AM


(Photo:NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used a new drill method to produce a hole on February 26 in a target named Lake Orcadie. The hole marks the first operation of the rover's drill since a motor problem began acting up more than a year ago. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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Curiosity drilling again in Gale Crater. Bob Zimmerman

Curiosity attempts to drill with improvised technique

March 1, 2018 at 7:06 am Robert Zimmerman

The Curiosity engineering team has made the first attempt to drill in more than a year, using an improvised technique that has the rover arm push the bit into the ground rather than its presently non-function feed mechanism.

This early test produced a hole about a half-inch (1-centimeter) deep at a target called Lake Orcadie — not enough for a full scientific sample, but enough to validate that the new method works mechanically. This was just the first in what will be a series of tests to determine how well the new drill method can collect samples. If this drill had achieved sufficient depth to collect a sample, the team would have begun testing a new sample delivery process, ultimately delivering to instruments inside the rover.

According to the mission update page, for some reason the drill was unable to penetrate the ground very deeply.

They plan to do more tests, with the goal of eventually getting a hole deep enough to provide good samples.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter comes out of safe mode

March 1, 2018 at 7:28 am Robert Zimmerman

On February 23 the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) engineering team was able to bring the spacecraft out of safe mode, after a low battery voltage reading caused it to shut down.

Mission team members brought MRO out of safe mode on Friday (Feb. 23), NASA officials said. The orbiter seems to be in good health overall; the battery voltage is back to normal, MRO is communicating with Earth, and temperatures and power levels are stable, agency officials said.

But MRO’s handlers haven’t put the orbiter back to work yet. “We’re in the diagnostic stage, to better understand the behavior of the batteries and ways to give ourselves more options for managing them in the future,” MRO project manager Dan Johnston, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. “We will restore MRO’s service as a relay for other missions as soon as we can do so with confidence in spacecraft safety — likely in about one week. After that, we will resume science observations.”

Overall this sounds like very good news.