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.


This artists rendering provided by NASA shows the Mars Rover, Curiosity. ((AP Photo/NASA) )

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.

With files from CBC News