Nasa's Curiosity rover zaps Mars rock called Coronation

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WASHINGTON. August 20. KAZINFORM Nasa's Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, BBC said.

The robot fired its ChemCam laser at a tennis-ball-sized stone lying about 2.5m away on the ground.

The brief but powerful burst of light from the instrument vapourised the surface of the rock, revealing details of its basic chemistry.

This was just target practice for ChemCam , proving it is ready to begin the serious business of investigating the geology of the Red Planet.

It is part of a suite of instruments on the one-tonne robot, which landed two weeks ago in a deep equatorial depression known as Gale Crater.

Over the course of one Martian year, Curiosity  will try to determine whether past environments at its touchdown location could ever have supported life.

The US-French ChemCam instrument will be a critical part of that investigation, helping to select the most interesting objects for study.

The inaugural target of the laser was a 7cm-wide rock dubbed "Coronation" (previously N165).

It had no particular science value, and was expected to be just another lump of ubiquitous Martian basalt, a volcanic rock.

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