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Curiosity Mars Rover Beside Sandstone Target 'Windjana'
This image from the Navigation Camera (Navcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover
shows a sandstone slab on which the rover team has selected a target,
"Windjana," for close-up examination and possible drilling. The target is on
the approximately 2-foot-wide (60-centimeter-wide) rock seen in the right half
of this view.
The Navcam's left-eye camera took this image during the 609th Martian day, or
sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (April 23, 2014). The rover's name is written
on the covering for a portion of the robotic arm, here seen stowed at the front
of the vehicle.
The sandstone target's informal name comes from Windjana Gorge in Western
Australia. If this target meets criteria set by engineers and scientists, it
could become the mission's third drilled rock and the first that is not
The rock is within a waypoint location called "the Kimberley," where
sandstone outcrops with differing resistance to wind erosion result in a
stair-step pattern of layers. Windjana is within what the team calls the area's
"middle unit," because it is intermediate between rocks that form buttes in the
area and lower-lying rocks that show a pattern of striations.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's
Curiosity rover and the rover's Navcam.
Drill Here? NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Inspects Site
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has driven within
robotic-arm's reach of the sandstone slab at the center of this April 23 view
from the rover's Mast Camera. The rover team plans to have Curiosity examine a
target patch on the rock, called "Windjana," to aid a decision about whether to
This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA's
Curiosity Mars rover shows a sandstone slab on which the rover team has selected
a target, "Windjana," for close-up examination. The target is on the
approximately 2-foot-wide rock seen in the right half of this April 23, 2014,
In this Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter view of the
Curiosity rover mission's waypoint called "the Kimberley," the red dot indicates
the location of a sandstone target, "Windjana," selected for close-up
inspection. The image was taken April 11, 2014, before the rover arrived at
The team operating NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is telling the rover to use
several tools this weekend to inspect a sandstone slab being evaluated as a
possible drilling target.
If this target meets criteria set by engineers and scientists, it could
become the mission's third drilled rock, and the first that is not mudstone. The
team calls it "Windjana," after a gorge in Western Australia.
The planned inspection, designed to aid a decision on whether to drill at
Windjana, includes observations with the camera and X-ray spectrometer at the
end of the rover's arm, use of a brush to remove dust from a patch on the rock,
and readings of composition at various points on the rock with an instrument
that fires laser shots from the rover's mast.
Curiosity's hammering drill collects powdered sample material from the
interior of a rock, and then the rover prepares and delivers portions of the
sample to onboard laboratory instruments. The first two Martian rocks drilled
and analyzed this way were mudstone slabs neighboring each other in Yellowknife
Bay, about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) northeast of the rover's current location at
a waypoint called "the Kimberley." Those two rocks yielded evidence of an
ancient lakebed environment with key chemical elements and a chemical energy
source that provided conditions billions of years ago favorable for microbial
From planned drilling at Windjana or some nearby location on sandstone at the
Kimberley, Curiosity's science team hopes to analyze the cement that holds
together the sand-size grains in the rock.
"We want to learn more about the wet process that turned sand deposits into
sandstone here," said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "What was the composition of the
fluids that bound the grains together? That aqueous chemistry is part of the
habitability story we're investigating."
Understanding why some sandstones in the area are harder than others also
could help explain major shapes of the landscape where Curiosity is working
inside Gale Crater. Erosion-resistant sandstone forms a capping layer of mesas
and buttes. It could even hold hints about why Gale Crater has a large layered
mountain, Mount Sharp, at its center.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient
habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech, built the rover and
manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
The spectrometer on the rover's robotic arm is the Alpha Particle X-Ray
Spectrometer (APXS), which was provided by the Canadian Space Agency. The camera
on the arm is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), built and operated by Malin
Space Science Systems, San Diego. The laser on the mast is part of the Chemistry
and Camera instrument (ChemCam), from the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos
National Laboratory in New Mexico and the French national space agency, CNES.
The rover's wire-bristle brush, the Dust Removal Tool, was built by Honeybee
Robotics, New York.