Thursday, May 24, 2018

NASA rover Curiosity zaps Mars rock with laser

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA's Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

During the target practice on Sunday, Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole, officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity is expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor.

Its goal is to determine whether the Martian environment was habitable.

In several days, flight controllers will command Curiosity to move its wheels side-to-side and take its first short drive.

The $2.5 billion mission is the most expensive yet to Mars.

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