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Mars Drill Test Conducted By Curiosity Rover For First Time, NASA Says

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This image provided by NASA shows the aftermath of a test drill by the Curiosity rover on Mars. The six-wheel rover landed near the Martian equator in August 2012 and is preparing for its first actual drill into a rock. Completion of this "mini drill" test in preparation for full drilling was confirmed in data from Mars received late Wednesday Feb. 6, 2013, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. | AP

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Curiosity rover has drilled a test hole in a Martian rock in preparation for the real thing.

Images released Thursday by NASA showed a ring of powder that was generated by the drill at the end of the rover's robotic arm. The hole measured less than an inch deep.

Scientists planned to analyze the latest activity – dubbed a "mini drill test" – before commanding Curiosity to drill deeper. One of its major tasks is to drill into a rock and transfer the ground-up powder to its onboard laboratories for analysis – a first on Mars.

Curiosity landed in an ancient crater near the Martian equator last year on a mission to gauge whether environmental conditions were favorable for microbes.

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