PASADENA (CNS) – The Mars rover Curiosity, which is being managed by
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, took its first drive on the
surface of the red planet Wednesday, albeit a short one.
The rover, which landed on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, rolled forward
three meters, then turned and rolled backward, putting it about 20 feet from
its landing site. To prove it, the rover sent a photo that was posted on
Twitter, showing its tire track on the Mars surface.
The test drive ensured the rover’s mobility and prepared it for “lots
of amazing exploration ahead,” said Matt Heverly, Curiosity’s lead driver at
The rover will spend the next few days performing instrument checks
before driving to its first destination, about 1,300 feet to the east-
“Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers,”
said JPL’s Curiosity project manager Pete Theisinger. “The testing and
characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay
important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with
appropriate care. Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress.”
The short drive coincided with a visit by Gov. Jerry Brown to JPL, where
he met with the team managing the rover and celebrated his proclamation of
today as “Space Day” in California.
In his proclamation, Brown said the images of Mars taken by the rover
“and the technological genius inherent in the mission have captivated the
world’s imagination and reinvigorated our commitment to reach for the stars.”
The rover’s arrival on Mars capped a 36-week, 154-million-mile journey
that ended with a highly complex but flawlessly executed landing sequence. Its
two-year $2.5 billion mission is to search for signs that Mars might have once
had water and other conditions necessary to support life and could support life
in the future.
In recent days, Curiosity’s various science instruments have been
examining the weather on the Martian surface and the soil and rocks around it.
Based on data collected since Curiosity’s landing, JPL officials said the air
temperature has ranged from 28 degrees to minus-103 degrees, while ground
temperatures have ranged from 37 degrees to minus-132 degrees.
JPL officials noted that one of the two sets of Rover Environmental
Monitoring Station wind sensors aboard the rover has not been transmitting any
“One possibility is that pebbles lofted during the landing hit the
delicate circuit boards on one of the two REMS booms,” according to JPL’s
Ashwin Vasavada, a Curiosity deputy project scientist. “We will have to be
more clever about using the remaining wind sensor to get wind speed and
Meanwhile, the rover’s Twitter page announced that Curiosity’s landing
spot was being named Bradbury Landing, in honor of the late science-fiction
writer Ray Bradbury.
“This was not a difficult choice for the science team,” said Michael
Meyer, NASA program scientist for Curiosity. “Many of us and millions of other
readers were inspired in our lives by stories Ray Bradbury wrote to dream of
the possibility of life on Mars.”
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