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Curiosity rover finally reaches Mount Sharp on Mars, ready to drill

A colour-enhanced image of Mount Sharp from the Curiosity rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA’s Curiosity rover is about to conduct some serious scientific drilling at Mars.

The space agency announced Thursday that the rover has reached the base of Mount Sharp, its destination since landing two years ago. Officials say drilling could begin as early as next week at an outcrop of rocks called Pahrump Hills.

READ MORE: Mars rover Curiosity assesses route to Mount Shar

Mount Sharp, located in ancient Gale Crater, rises nearly five-and-a-half kilometres. Curiosity began the eight kilometre trek over a year ago.

Curiosity as it crosses Gale Crater on Mars, looking toward Mount Sharp. The image is tilted because the camera, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, is carried at an angle when the arm is stowed for driving. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A scientific review panel has criticized the Curiosity team for an extended mission that involves too much driving and too little sampling. On Thursday, project scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology promised “we are going to do a lot more drilling” now that the six-wheel Curiosity is at Mount Sharp.

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READ MORE: It just keeps going and going: Mars rover sets solar system record

NASA says the nuclear-powered Curiosity remains healthy, aside from worn wheels. Curiosity is a roving science laboratory with high-tech instruments to drill into rocks, forecast the weather and track radiation.

At $2.5 billion, it’s the most expensive mission to the red planet.

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