by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (AFP) Aug 29, 2012
NASA's Curiosity rover has begun its first major drive across the surface of Mars, handling "beautifully" as it prepares to start some serious scientific work, the US space agency said Wednesday.
The $2.5 billion craft -- which landed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet on August 6 -- plans to drive a quarter-mile (400 meters) east, to a spot where it may use its drill for the first time, to bore into the Martian rock.
The rover trundled about 52 feet (16 meters) Tuesday, its third drive and longer than its first two combined -- positioning it to examine an area scoured by exhaust from the spacecraft engines that helped lower it to the ground.
It is pausing for about a day before heading off again on its eastwards trek, NASA said in a written update.
"This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg," said mission manager Arthur Amador of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"It's nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels ... The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it," he added.
Glenelg is a location where three types of terrain intersect, and NASA experts hope it will provide a first rock target for drilling and analysis.
"We are on our way, though Glenelg is still many weeks away," said Curiosity scientist John Grotzinger. "We plan to stop for just a day at the location we just reached, but in the next week or so we will make a longer stop."
During the longer stop, NASA experts plan to test its robotic arm and instruments at the end of the arm.
On Wednesday's stop, the rover was taking pictures of its ultimate destination, the slopes of nearby Mount Sharp.
It will use these pictures and images taken from its landing spot, about 33 feet apart, to produce three-dimensional information about the landscape to help it decide which path to take towards the mountain.
On Tuesday, the Curiosity rover beamed back the first song to be broadcast from the Martian surface.
"Reach for the Stars" by Grammy-winning US musician will.i.am was transmitted back to Earth as part of efforts to inspire more young people to get interested in science.
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
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Curiosity In It for the Long Haul
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Aug 29, 2012
In recent days, Curiosity has accomplished a number of firsts, including the first use of its laser to zap a nearby rock and its first short drive. Many more such firsts lie ahead. But as the rover prepares to head off on a journey of discovery across previously unexplored territory, it seems like a good time to pause and remind ourselves just what it was that Curiosity was sent to Mars to do. ... read more
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