NASA’s Curiosity rover readies to drill on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover readies to drill on Mars

LOS ANGELES - The Associated Press
NASA’s Curiosity rover readies to drill on Mars

This photo shows the surface of the planet through Curiosity’s camera. REUTERS / NASA

Scientists have zeroed in on a Martian target for the Curiosity rover to drill into: A rock outcrop as flat as a pool table that’s expected to yield fresh insight into the red planet’s history.

Running a tad behind schedule, Curiosity was due to arrive at the site in the next several days. After an inspection of the surroundings, the car-size rover will test its drill for the first time “probably in the next two weeks,” project manager Richard Cook of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Jan. 15.

The highly anticipated drilling has been billed as the most complex engineering task since the acrobatic landing inside a Martian crater last summer.

Curiosity is on a quest to determine whether environmental conditions could have been favorable for microbes.

By boring into a rock and transferring the powder to the rover’s onboard chemistry lab and other instruments, scientists should get a better handle on the region’s mineral and chemical makeup.