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Mars Orbiter Captures Curiosity Tracks on Red Planet

Sep 07, 2012 08:33 AM EDT
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NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured the tracks of rover Curiosity on Mars.

The rover has so far travelled 368 feet (112 meters) in just a month ever since it landed on the Martian soil on Aug. 5, according to a report from The Associated Press.

"We left tracks on Mars that we can see from orbit," The Associated Press quoted mission manager Michael Watkins as saying.  Watkins said that this is the first time that a rover has left deep or wide tracks unlike tracks left by other rovers.

Last week, Curiosity rover began its trek from its landing site on Mars to a key destination after successfully passing its first test ride. The rover is heading to a site known as Glenelg to conduct science operations, which might take some weeks to reach as the rover will stop at multiple sites.

Glenelg will be rover's first site for drilling operations, as three different types of terrain intersect on that spot. Mars rover will analyze the rock samples on the surface of Glenelg.

Curiosity is on a two-year mission to find out if the planet could possibly have supported microbial life. After landing first Mars, a site which has been dubbed as "Bradbury Landing" to honor late science fiction author Ray Bradbury, the rover went through several health check-up routines.

According to the AP report, the rover will remain at the current spot for several days before it could continue with its journey to Glenelg.  The report stated Watkins as saying that engineers will be checking out crucial robotic arm of the rover and also the "Swiss Army knife" which is at the end of the robotic arm to study the rock samples on Mars.

Meanwhile, the rover has also measured the Mars' atmospheric composition. Using Sample Analysis at Mars (Sam) instrument, the car-sized robot has sucked the air in order to measure the concentration of gases in the atmosphere, reported BBC.

While the analysis of the gases is going on, scientists expect carbon dioxide to be the main component of air in Mars. The analysis will also detect the presence of methane gas, which could support microbial life. 

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