Curiosity passes on drilling Mars rock, keeps on roving

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has deemed a potential drilling target too unstable, instead opting to resume its journey to Mount Sharp.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover found the rock named, 'Bonanza King,' unsuitable for drilling. Image released Aug. 22, 2014.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has passed up a potential drilling target and instead resumed the long trek to a huge Red Planet mountain.

Mission team members had been considering drilling a Mars rock dubbed "Bonanza King" but scrapped the idea after pre-drilling activities suggested that the stone is not stable enough, NASA officials said.

"We have decided that the rocks under consideration for drilling, based on the tests we did, are not good candidates for drilling," Curiosity project manager Jim Erickson, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "Instead of drilling here, we will resume driving toward Mount Sharp."

Mount Sharp rises more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) into the sky from the center of Mars' Gale Crater. Mission scientists want Curiosity to climb up through the mountain's foothills, reading a history of the planet's changing environmental conditions as it goes.

The 1-ton Curiosity rover has been rolling toward Mount Sharp since July 2013. The six-wheeled robot still has about 2 miles (3.2 km) to go before it reaches its targeted entry point near the mountain's base; Curiosity should get there by the end of the year, mission officials have said.

The road to Mount Sharp has been anything but smooth. Rough terrain has taken a toll on Curiosity's metal wheels, obligating the robot's handlers to search for a smoother, less punishing route through Gale Crater.

This quest led them to send Curiosity through a sandy swale called Hidden Valley, which does not possess many sharp, wheel-puncturing rocks. But Hidden Valley proved a bit too sandy for Curiosity, whose wheels couldn't find much purchase there. The rover quickly left the valley and will now find a new way to Mount Sharp.

"After further analysis of the sand, Hidden Valley does not appear to be navigable with the desired degree of confidence," Erickson said. "We will use a route avoiding the worst of the sharp rocks as we drive slightly to the north of Hidden Valley."

Curiosity has drilled into three rocks since touching down on Mars in August 2012. Analysis of samples collected during the first two drilling operations allowed mission scientists to determine that a region near Curiosity's landing site called Yellowknife Bay was a lake-and-stream system that could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook orGoogle+. Originally published on

Copyright 2014, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to