NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has beamed home photos confirming that it recovered samples from deep within a Red Planet rock, cementing the robot's place in exploration history.
The Curiosity rover drilled 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) into a Martian outcrop on Feb. 8, and today (Feb. 20) mission scientists first set eyes on images showing drill tailings sitting in Curiosity's scoop, waiting to be transferred to analytical instruments on the robot's body.
The photos confirm that Curiosity has pulled off an historic achievement, scientists said.
"This is the first time any robot, fixed or mobile, has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars," Louise Jandura, sample system chief engineer for Curiosity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., told reporters today.
"In fact, this is the first time any rover has drilled into a rock to collect a sample anywhere but on Earth," Jandura added. "In the five-decade history of the space age, this is indeed a rare event." [Curiosity's First Drilling on Mars (Photos)]