published Sunday, August 19th, 2012

NASA rover Curiosity shoots a Mars rock with laser

This image provided Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, by NASA shows a close-up view of a Martian rock that the NASA rover Curiosity zapped at using its laser instrument. Curiosity landed on in a giant crater near Mars' equator on Aug. 5, 2012 on a two-year mission to determine whether the environment was habitable.
This image provided Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, by NASA shows a close-up view of a Martian rock that the NASA rover Curiosity zapped at using its laser instrument. Curiosity landed on in a giant crater near Mars' equator on Aug. 5, 2012 on a two-year mission to determine whether the environment was habitable.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    This image provided by NASA shows the Gale Crater Martian landing site for the Curiosity Mars rover. The Gale Crater is approximately the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.

During the target practice on Sunday. Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor.

Its goal is to determine whether the Martian environment was habitable.

In several days, flight controllers will command Curiosity to move its wheels side-to-side and take its first short drive.

The $2.5 billion mission is the most expensive yet to Mars.

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