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Feb 9, 2013 1:13 PM by Matt Stafford

Mars rover finishes first drilling project

LOS ANGELES (AP) - To scientists' excitement, the Curiosity rover has completed its first drilling on Mars and is preparing to analyze a pinch of powdery rock.

Images beamed back to Earth overnight showed a fresh drill hole next to a test hole the rover made earlier.

The feat marked yet another milestone for Curiosity, which landed last summer to hunt for the chemical building blocks of life.

While previous Mars rovers have chiseled away at rocks, it's the first time one drilled down to obtain a sample. The exercise was so complex that engineers spent several days commanding Curiosity to drill test holes.

The next task is to transfer the powder to Curiosity's onboard laboratories to study the chemical makeup.

After the drilling activities, Curiosity will spend nine months driving to a mountain.

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