Target practice: NASA rover Curiosity uses laser to target a small Martian rock

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: August 19, 2012 - 4:06 PM
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A close-up view of a Martian rock that the NASA rover Curiosity zapped with its laser instrument.

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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