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Feb 20, 2013 5:05 PM by Matt Stafford

NASA rover prepares to analyze Mars rock dust

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step - dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of.

NASA said Wednesday it received confirmation that Curiosity successfully collected a tablespoon of powder from the drilling two weeks ago and was poised to transfer a pinch to its onboard laboratories. It's the first time a spacecraft has bored into a rock on Mars to retrieve a sample from the interior.

The analysis is expected to take days to complete.

If all goes smoothly, scientists will focus next on driving the six-wheel rover to Mount Sharp, its ultimate science destination. Curiosity landed in an ancient crater last summer to study whether the environment could have been favorable for microbes.

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