published Friday, August 17th, 2012

NASA rover prepares to use laser on a Martian rock

This image released on Friday Aug. 17,2012 shows bedrocks that was exposed after Curiosity's rocket stage fired its engines that blew away soil from the Martian surface. The Mars rover is preparing to aim its laser next week at a rock in the first test of the instrument.
This image released on Friday Aug. 17,2012 shows bedrocks that was exposed after Curiosity's rocket stage fired its engines that blew away soil from the Martian surface. The Mars rover is preparing to aim its laser next week at a rock in the first test of the instrument.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOS ANGELES — Ready, set, fire.

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity is preparing for its first laser target practice — zapping a Martian rock 10 feet on Saturday.

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 favorable 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.

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