The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity broke its own record for the deepest hole ground into a rock on another planet with a 7.2-millimeter (about 0.28-inch) grind on the rock "Pilbara," on the rover's 86th sol on Mars.
This image is from the rover's panoramic camera and features Pilbara before the rover ground into it with its rock abrasion tool. After careful examination of the rock, the rock abrasion tool engineers determined that the upper left portion (visible in this image) of Pilbara was the safest area to grind. The now familiar "blueberries," or spherules, are present in this rock, however, they do not appear in the same manner as other berries examined during this mission. Reminiscent of a golf tee, the blueberries sit atop a "stem," thus making them even more of an obstacle through which to grind. The left side of the rock is relatively berry-free and proved to be an ideal spot for the procedure.
The team has developed a new approach to commanding the rock abrasion tool that allows for more aggressive grinding parameters. The tool is now programmed, in the event of a stall, to retreat from its target and attempt to grind again. This allows the grinder to essentially reset itself instead of aborting its sequence altogether and waiting for further commands from rover planners.