NASA Rover Curiosity Shoots a Mars Rock with Laser

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
NASA rover zapps first Martian rock during target practice.

Engineers work on a model of the Mars rover Curiosity at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. After traveling 8 1/2 months and 352 million miles, Curiosity will attempt a landing on Mars the night of Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- 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.

AP-WF-08-19-12 2109GMT


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