Los Angeles • Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step: dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of.
Images beamed back to Earth on Wednesday showed a tablespoon of gray powder in Curiosity's scoop, giving scientists their first glimpse of the sample collected during the drilling nearly two weeks ago. Over the next several days, Curiosity will sieve the powder and deliver a pinch to its onboard laboratories for analysis.
The Martian landscape is stained orange-red by iron-rich dust from the surface that is blown around in the atmosphere. That the drilled rock is gray underneath signals that it probably did not undergo certain chemical changes through surface exposure, scientists said, and it's a good starting point in Curiosity's quest to determine whether the environment was ever favorable for microbes.