NASA's Curiosity Rover Makes Successful First Test Ride
NASA announced Wednesday that the rover Curiosity has successfully passed the driving test on Mars and has moved around 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed more than two weeks ago.
Naming the location where the Curiosity touched down as Bradbury Landing in honor of the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury popular who died in June this year, the space agency said that the Mars Curiosity turned, and moved in forward and reverse directions.
According to NASA, the mobile system of Curiosity is in good condition and the rover will spend some more days performing instrument checks and study the surroundings, besides Bradbury Landing. The rover will then get on with its first driving destination to the east-southeast which is around 1,300 feet (400 meters).
"Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers. The testing and characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care," Curiosity Project Manager Pete Theisinger of JPL, said in a statement. "Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress," he said.
Researchers have started pointing instruments on rover's mast to probe areas of interest that are close by and far away from the rover. The remote sensing mast has two scientific instruments for covering rover's surrounding along with two stereo navigation cameras which will be used for planning its activities.
The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument studied the composition of rocks on the Martian soil this week which was exposed when the engines of the landing spacecraft blew away the material that was left on the rocks. According to Roger Weins of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the rocks might be pieces of basalt within a sedimentary deposit.
Curioisty landed on the Martian soil on Aug. 5 to determine if the red planet could have supported microbial life. Since then, the rover has been undergoing several health check-up routines before it could continue with its two-year mission. While the car-sized instrument had been successful in short test rides, NASA researchers discovered a damaged wind sensor when they were checking out the instruments that will be used by the rovers.
While the cause of the damage is not known, one possible reason pointed out by the deputy project scientist for Curiosity, Ashwin Vasavada, to the Associated Press was that the pebbles that were thrown up during rover's landing process could have fallen on the wind sensors causing a damage. Vasavada said the broken wind sensor will not have any impact on the mission as there is another operating sensor that can be used to determine wind speed and direction.