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Curiosity’s drill fails for the fourth time to drill into the marker band layer on Mt Sharp

The fourth attempt yesterday to use Curiosity’s drill to drill into the marker band layer on Mount Sharp once again was unable to drill down deep enough to obtain a sample.

Despite giving it the “old college try,” Curiosity’s attempt to drill into the Marker Band at the “Encanto” site did not reach sampling depth. Because other rocks around the rover look similar to “Encanto” and are likely also too hard to drill, the Science Team decided to convert the plan to a “Touch and Go.”

Although the Science Team is disappointed to leave this Marker Band location without a sample, Curiosity will use MAHLI, APXS, and ChemCam LIBS to analyze the chemistry and texture of the shallow “Encanto” drill hole and tailings, targeting the intriguing light-toned material exposed in the wall of the drill hole. We may see another location in the Marker Band worth sampling in the near future, but even if we don’t, there will certainly be many more exciting drilling opportunities to look forward to as Curiosity continues her climb up Mt. Sharp!

This drilling difficulty is not a surprise. The marker band is a very distinct flat layer that is seen at about the same elevation on all sides of Mount Sharp. It flatness suggests it is resistant to erosion, which also suggests its material will be hard. The inability of Curiosity’s drill to penetrate it only confirms this.

It also makes getting a drill sample to test even more intriguing. I suspect that the science team is going to try a few more times as it travels forward across the band, as indicated by the red dotted line in the panorama below.
Panorama as of January 17, 2023
Click for full image.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Steve

    How was the drill designed? Is it rotational only? I spent enough years in underground mining running a jack leg drill. With a combination of hammer (impact) and rotation any rock I’ve come across (on my home planet) can be drilled into. The rate of drilling progress drops with harder rock, but a hole can be drilled.

  • Steve: Do a search here on BtB for “Curiosity” and “drill”. If you go back a few years you will read the history of the drill, which is now used in an improvised manner (successfully). Along the way I know I linked to some good descriptions on how the drill is designed. I am sure you will find this information edifying.

    I suspect this drill issue contributes to some of their caution on how it is used, as they don’t want to lose it.

  • Jeff Wright

    Plantable pyros-nail gun deals might be lighter,

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