Rock Abrasion Tool
The Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) was the first machine ever to gain access to the interior of rocks on Mars. Designed, developed, and operated by Honeybee Robotics as a part of NASA’s twin 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers science payload, the RAT is a form of space drill that uses grinding wheels of diamond dust and resin to abrade the surface of Martian rocks. To date, the RATs have completed hundreds of grinds, and the unit on Opportunity remains fully operational nearly a decade after the rover landed.
The RAT is a tool and an instrument. By enabling the rovers to better explore rocks on Mars, these tools turn the reconnaissance vehicles into “robotic field geologists” that have uncovered valuable insight into the planet’s past and present environment.
Using three small motors, the RAT requires only 11 watts of energy to cut into Martian rock. Weighing 685 g, the RAT measures 7 cm in diameter and 10 cm long, about the size of a Coke can. This small size and low power enables the RAT to be mounted on the end-of-arm turret of the relatively small Mars Exploration Rovers.