Today On Mars: Curiosity Visits The Snake River

After a short holiday break, Mars Rover Curiosity is on the move and looking to smash some rocks.

Snake River, Gale Crater, Mars

Just below and left of center is the so-called "Snake River" rock feature, which Curiosity is pausing to examine before moving on to rock-smashing elsewhere in "Yellowknife Bay."NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars Rover Curiosity is back on the move. After a brief holiday break during which the immobile rover simply imaged its surroundings it resumed rolling on January 3 and is now within a robotic-arm-length of a strange rock feature now dubbed "Snake River" within a small depression known as "Yellowknife Bay." And now on it's 147th Martian day, the geologist in Curiosity is getting restless--according to NASA scientists the rover is scouting potential targets for the first use of its hammering drill.

That target likely won't be Snake River, but the rock feature is interesting to NASA researchers for a few reasons, chiefly because it "has a crosscutting relationship to the surrounding rock," says project scientist John Grotzinger, and that suggests it was most likely deposited there after the layer of rock that it cuts across. No is sure exactly what that means, but Curiosity is pausing there briefly to take a hard look at the formation.

Meanwhile, the universe's most popular robotic rover (that we know of) is taking in all of Yellowknife Bay as it considers areas in which it might be worthwhile to deploy the aforementioned hammering drill. This instrument will come out of Curiosity's toolbox in the coming weeks to collect powdered samples from the interior of rocks for analysis by the rover's onboard instruments. Stay tuned for rock smashing.