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Curiosity Begins Journey to Glenelg

Aug 30, 2012 08:56 AM EDT

NASA's Curiosity rover has begun its trek from its landing site on Mars to a key destination to conduct science operations.

The rover moved about 52 feet (16 meters) in the eastward direction toward a major spot known as the Glenelg, where three different types of terrain intersect.

Glenelg will be rover's first site for drilling operations to study and analyze the rock samples on the surface. "This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg, and it's nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels," mission manager Arthur Amador of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

"The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it," he said.

Curiosity, which landed on the Martian soil on Aug. 5 on a two-year mission, underwent several health check-up routines before it could continue with its two-year mission. The car-sized rover performed two other drives testing the mobility system. It successfully passed its first test ride on Mars and moved around 20 feet (6 meters) from the landing site dubbed as "Bradbury Landing."

The rover will stay put for a day at the spot where it has reached now before continuing its journey to Glenelg which may take some weeks.                                                                                                                                                          

"We are on our way, though Glenelg is still many weeks away," Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement.

"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," he added.

During it stay, Curiosity will snap pictures of the terrain towards its final journey to Mount Sharp. It will be used along with the images of Mount sharp taken at the previous landing site to study the possible driving routes.

It will take at least a year for the Curiosity to reach Mount Sharp, a geological site which is of study interest for NASA as it has different composition of sand suggested by its color. The rover will stop at various destinations to conduct science operations to determine the environment conditions feasible for microbial life.

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