NASA rover Curiosity prepares to zap a Martian rock
The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover examines a rock on Mars in this 2011 artist's rendering. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Published Friday, August 17, 2012 4:48PM EDT
LOS ANGELES -- The NASA Mars rover Curiosity is preparing for its first laser target practice -- zapping a Martian rock 10 feet (3 metres) away sometime next week.
Since landing in an ancient crater Aug. 5, Curiosity has been getting a full health checkup. Scientists said Friday they have chosen a generic-looking rock near the landing site to aim the laser at and burn a small hole.
The laser is one of 10 tools Curiosity will use to study whether the environment was favourable for microbial life.
In several weeks, the rover will head east to a spot where three different types of terrain intersect. By year's end, it will start its trek toward a mountain rising from the crater floor.