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.
Click for full image.
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