August 23, 2012
Credit: Credit: NASA
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” rover performed its first test drive Aug. 22, confirming its full mobility before it begins a 400-meter trek to a spot dubbed “Glenelg,” its first remote science destination.
Matt Heverly, the engineering systems manager for the MSL, told reporters that the rover initiated its first test drive at 7:17 a.m. PDT. Curiosity moved 4 meters forward, performed a 120-deg. turn-in-place, and then moved 2 1/2 meters backward. The maneuver took 16 min. — the rover actually moved for a total of 4 to 5 min., while image recording took up the rest of the time.
The test confirmed that the rover is fully mobile and that all wheels are working since they were all able to perform a full-resolution turn, Heverly said during an Aug. 22 press conference.
According to mission project manager Joy Crisp, starting Aug. 23 Curiosity will begin making a 400-meter trek east to Glenelg. There, the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) hopes it will be able to take its first scoop sample, to be analyzed by the rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments. The trip will take a few weeks according to Crisp; if the scooping results are promising, the rover will begin drilling at the site.
Next, Curiosity will venture to Mount Sharp, a mountain within Gale Crater, where the rover landed. This trip will take several months to complete.
Meanwhile, Mike Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars exploration program, announced that Curiosity’s landing site will be named Bradbury Landing, after the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury, a longtime JPL supporter and author of “The Martian Chronicles.”