NASA's Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.
During the target practice on Sunday Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock during a 10-second window, burning a small hole in it.
Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheeled rover has been checking out its instruments including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a five-kilometre-high mountain rising from the crater floor.
Its goal is to determine whether the Martian environment was habitable.
A crucial component to the mission's success is the Canadian-designed alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS).
Scientists at the University of Guelph, led by physics professor Ralf Gellert, designed the APXS — a small box that functions like an X-ray machine that analyses the chemical element composition of a sample.
The Canadian Space Agency paid the $17.8-million bill.
In several days, flight controllers will command Curiosity to move its wheels side-to-side and take its first short drive on the red planet.
The $2.5-billion US mission is the most expensive yet to Mars.