N165 is the (un)luckiest bit of basalt on Mars. Which is saying something because there is a lot of basalt on Mars.
Meet the most boring rock in the world. It's probably basalt, an igneous rock, which makes it like many, many other rocks and pebbles all over the world.
What makes it interesting is that the world in question is Mars, and this random little piece of stone happens to be sitting near the Mars Curiosity rover on the floor of the Gale crater.
And, N165, as it is being temporarily called, also happens to have a nice, flat face that happens to be in the range of the rover's laser.
That all makes this poor little guy a perfect test rock for everyone's favorite Martian robot to fire upon. The rover is going to fire 30 laser bursts over 10 seconds, capturing the light generated by the tiny bit of plasma that the laser will create with each blast. Each element (e.g.oxygen) and rock (e.g. basalt) has a distinctive signature that the ChemCam can detect. This spectrographic technique is fast and will be deployed thousands of times on Mars.
Read more at The Atlantic.