(Sen) - NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun its journey away from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing, in order to explore Gale Crater.
Curiosity’s initial drive combined several different motions of forward, turn and reverse until it reached a spot six metres from where it landed. Curiosity’s first wheel tracks on Mars were also a sign of the health of the mobility system. "We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead," said Matt Heverly, lead rover driver.
Curiosity will completely fly the nest of Bradbury Landing in a few days, towards its first driving destination 400 metres away. In the mean time, the rover will perform more instrument checks and perform analyses of the immediate area.
"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," said Curiosity Project Manager Pete Theisinger. "Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress."
This image was taken by Curiosity's left Navcam on 2012-08-22. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Curiosity has already been making scientific measurements, with ChemCam zapping its first rock dubbed "Coronation" on Sunday August 19 with a laser in order to study its composition. The preliminary findings revealed Coronation was basalt, a type of volcanic rock. The results were revealed by the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which is managing the Mars Science Laboratory, to give it its formal name. The ChemCam procoess and preliminary findings can be read here in detail.
The choice of the landing site name was approved by NASA to honour the author Ray Bradbury, who died earlier this year. Bradbury wrote almost 50 books, and hundreds of short stories, in a career that lasted more than 70 years.
"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."
Curiosity landed on Mars on 6 August to being a two year primary mission. The rover will use its ten scientific instruments to see if Gale crater was ever suitable for microbial life.