Testing 'Bonanza King' yields results and new plans to drive elsewhere (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Testing ‘Bonanza King’ yields  unfortunate results and new plans to drive elsewhere (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This is why the scientists do their homework first: Sometimes plans must change.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover executed a test drill experiment to determine whether the nicknamed “Bonanza King” paving stone would be a good candidate for the fourth drilling mission. Initial tests showed some instability, disqualifying it as a stable target for a full drilling.

The rover started a mini-drill procedure, first creating the starter hole with a percussive drill. The rock budged slightly and protective software halted the test, allowing the rover team to evaluate their next steps. Determining that this target remained too unstable for further drilling, the team has resumed driving plans to bring Curiosity closer to their long-term destination at Mount Sharp. They may also stop for scientific observations at a closer outcropping, named “Pahrump Hills.” Two weeks ago, on the trek toward Mount Sharp, Curiosity encountered some extensive sand in “Hidden Valley” and slipped a bit.

Not a martian bone yard, move along, nothing to see but us rocks (photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Not a martian bone yard, move along, nothing to see but us rocks (photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

“After further analysis of the sand, Hidden Valley does not appear to be navigable with the desired degree of confidence,” Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson said. “We will use a route avoiding the worst of the sharp rocks as we drive slightly to the north of Hidden Valley.”

Sight Seeing Rocks on Mars

While on driving missions, Curiosity continues to take photos of the environment and send postcards home. This week’s view included these rocks, one of which some people might think looks remarkably like a femur bone here on Earth. Science team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory believe this shape occurred naturally from either wind or water erosion. Large fossils remain unlikely, according to the current evidence of conditions on ancient Mars.

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Cat Ellen
Cat Ellen

Cat Ellen is a technical writer by trade, an occasional copy editor
and beta reader, and has a passion for teaching ATS bellydance and
numerous textile arts, notably drop spindle and card weaving.