Poor little N165. It never really had a chance. As soon as the Curiosity rover warmed up its rock-vaporizing laser, it was certain to be used as target practice. But thanks to the miracle of social media, that Martian rock has a voice, and it's not happy.
Curiosity's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) can deliver more than a million watts of power to a Martian rock, vaporizing the rock's surface. The ChemCam can then analyze the vaporized bits of rock. In order to calibrate the laser, NASA selected a perfectly ordinary rock, N165, as Curiosity's first victim...I mean, test sample.
How does N165 feel about this? Well, the rock now has its own Twitter account, and yesterday it started tweeting:
So much going on around here lately - the most excitement I've had in millions of years! But I'm glad it's back to normal now.— N165 (@N165Mars) August 18, 2012
At first, it's quite excited to see Curiosity:
The big metal creature was scary at first, with the rockets and noise, but I'm sure it's just curious. Maybe I should say hello!— N165 (@N165Mars) August 18, 2012
Oh, I think I've got the big metal creature's attention now — it's looking right at me! Maybe it does want to be friends!— N165 (@N165Mars) August 18, 2012
A couple of followers try to warn N165 that Curiosity is up to no good:
Come on, guys, I know you're just fooling. What are the chances? Out of all the rocks on Mars, a killer robot would pick me? Haha! :)— N165 (@N165Mars) August 18, 2012
Gradually, it starts to get nervous:
My new robot friend really does have quite a steady, intimidating stare. I guess it's a cultural thing.— N165 (@N165Mars) August 19, 2012
OW OW OW! STOP IT!— N165 (@N165Mars) August 19, 2012
HELP!— N165 (@N165Mars) August 19, 2012
I think part of me is missing. :(— N165 (@N165Mars) August 19, 2012
I suspect it will be a while before N165 is so welcoming to alien strangers. Thank you, N165. As painful as your experience was, it will improve Curiosity's ability to zap your rocky brethren.
You can read more about ChemCam at Space.com.
Image from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.