This week, NASA released the first images of the dig site where the Curiosity Rover, which landed on Mars in August of 2012, will collect the first drill sample on Mars.
Curiosity sent the image of the site taken at the lowest point of Gale Crater that scientists are describing as a "candy store" of potential discoveries. The image was beamed 352 million miles back to Earth this week.
See also: - NASA's Curiosity Rover: Here's the New Hi-Res Video of the Mars Landing - Five Reasons You Should Pay Attention to NASA's Mission to Mars - Center for Science and the Imagination to Launch at ASU's Newest Interdisciplinary Building, ISTB4
NASA scientists anticipate they'll find a presence of materials that could have only been created around water.
According to National Geographic, the drilling is expected to start this month. The rover will drill five holes about two inches into the crater's bedrock. Curiosity will then " feed the powder created to the rover's two chemistry labs for analysis."
The existence of water on Mars is widely accepted, but what NASA's scientists hope to find is the time at which water was around and how it existed in the environment. These clues could help determine if and when the planet was capable of supporting life.
In September, Curiosity spotted what NASA now claims is evidence of an ancient river on Mars.
NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories. It may look like a broken sidewalk, but this geological feature on Mars is actually exposed bedrock made up of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. Scientists theorize that the bedrock was disrupted in the past, giving it the titled angle, most likely via impacts from meteorites.
Scientists say the size and shape of the gravel is proof of the existence of an ancient water stream -- because the gravel pieces are too big to have been moved by wind, it can be assumed they were carried by "a vigorous flow of water."
The image was taken by the rover's 100-millimeter Mastcam telephoto lens. For more info, check out NASA's Mars mission page.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.