Curiosity is finally getting ready to poke a hole in a rock. It's been preparing for it for the last few weeks and NASA is probably eager to get it over with.
The Mars rover will test its rock drill for the first time, paving the way to new wonderful discoveries on what Mars is made up of and one step closer to answering the question of whether there was or even is life on the neighboring planet.
The rover arrived at its current location a few weeks ago and it has already surveyed the area to pick the perfect rock. It has now "touched" the four locations chosen
with its drill and pressed down on them, but hasn't started drilling yet.
NASA scientists needed to perform these tests to check whether the equipment is working as intended, there's no one around to fix the drill or, worse yet, damage done to Curiosity, if things go wrong.
Next up is a nighttime test
, Curiosity will put pressure on its drill arm during the night when temperatures drop by 65 degrees Celsius, 117 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are no plans to drill at night, but in case it happens, NASA scientists want to know what to expect.
More tests will follow this week of both the hardware and the rock targets. Once all of that is done, Curiosity will finally be able to drill deep enough to collect samples, but this won't be for at least another week, probably more.
Curiosity's primary mission is to look for signs of life, either in Mars' distant and wet past or, even more exciting, today.
The chances of finding life on the surface today are slim at best, if there is life on the planet it's most likely buried deep in the soil where conditions are more favorable and constant, but where Curiosity can't possibly reach.