(Sen) - NASA's Curiosity rover is having a few days break from driving to give its arm a work out. The rover, which has so far travelled 358 feet (109 metres) from its landing site, is making its way across Gale Crater - a journey photographed from space by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Having covered about one fourth of the distance to its first destination, Glenelg, which is 400 metres for the rover's landing site, Curiosity paused on flat ground and extended its 7 foot (2.1 metre) arm which operates a number of Curiosity's tools.
Michael Watkins, the mission manager, explained: "We knew at some point we were going to need to stop and take a week or so for these characterization activities. For these checkouts, we need to turn to a particular angle in relation to the sun and on flat ground. We could see before the latest drive that this looked like a perfect spot to start these activities."
"These activities are important to get a better understanding for how the arm functions after the long cruise to Mars and in the different temperature and gravity of Mars, compared to earlier testing on Earth," said Daniel Limonadi
Curiosity's tracks as it makes its way across Gale Crater are visible in this image captured by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
After its six to ten day break, Curiosity will continue on its journey to Glenelg. It will take the rover a few weeks to reach its first destination. Glenelg was chosen because it's a natural intersection of three kinds of terrain including layered bedrock. When Curiosity gets there it will be the first ever rover to drill for a rock sample.
Colour view of the parachute and back shell that helped deliver Curiosity safely to the surface. This picture was taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Curiosity landed on Mars on August 6 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.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), based in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Science Laboratory mission for NASA.