NASA has announced that the Mars Curiosity Rover is planning to drill into Martian rock for the first time in an attempt to prove there was once water on the planet. Veins on the rock appear to be made up of hydrated calcium sulfate, or gypsum — a mineral that requires the presence of water to form. Once the rover reaches the rock in question, it will drill, ingest, and analyze samples of the rock to determine the makeup of the minerals in question as well as the more general chemical composition. "The orbital signal drew us here, but what we found when we arrived has been a great surprise," said Mars Science Laboratory project scientist John Grotzinger. "This area had a different type of wet environment than the streambed where we landed, maybe a few different types of wet environments."
While this mission will delay Curiosity's planned trip to the base of Mount Sharp, there's no doubt NASA is excited to get this first drilling expedition underway. National Geographic reports that Grotzinger said in a press conference that the drilling site turned out "to be jackpot unit. Every place we drive exposes fractures and vein fills."
With a thumbs up from the engineers, this light-veined rock will be my 1st drill target on Mars [pics] go.nasa.gov/10x8mST— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) January 15, 2013