Curiosity makes its first test drive

Nasa’s Mars rover made its first test drive, leaving wheel tracks near its landing spot — now dubbed “Bradbury Landing” in honour of late science fiction author Ray Bradbury. “Curiosity had its first successful drive on Mars. We have a fully functioning mobility system on our rover,” said Matt Haverly, the lead rover planner at Nasa’Curiosity on Wednesday s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
The $2.5 billion craft — which landed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet on August 6 — drove about four meters forward, before turning right at a 90 degree angle and moving backwards a few meters.
“This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago,” Nasa, the US space agency, said in a statement. An image taken by the rover clearly shows its wheel tracks on Martian soil. More tests will be conducted before Curiosity takes off on its full mission to search for signs of life on the Red Planet. “We are 16 days into a two-year mission,” said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at the JPL. “We haven’t exercised the sample gathering capability, which is a key, key, key element of the rover’s science mission,” Theisinger added.
“So, as good as it’s gone, and as wonderful as it is, we still only checked off about two of the level-one requirement boxes: we launched on time, landed on Mars, and we have a long way to go before this mission reaches its full potential.” Nasa said it had approved the Curiosity team’s proposal to rename the touchdown site in tribute to Bradbury, the author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 who would have turned 92 on Wednesday. He died in June.

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