Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Unravelling the secret worlds of the Red Planet Mars

Curiosity Begins Driving at Bradbury Landing

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced today they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury.
Making its first movement on the Martian surface, Curiosity's drive combined forward, turn and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed 16 days ago, says a NASA release.
Bradbury Landing (splash)
This panorama shows the tire tracks from Curiosity's first test drive. On Aug. 22, 2012, the rover made its first move, going forward about 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotating 120 degrees and then reversing about 8 feet (2.5 meters). Curiosity is about 20 feet (6 meters) from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 
NASA has approved the Curiosity science team's choice to name the landing ground for the influential author, who was born 92 years ago today and died this year. The location where Curiosity touched down is now called Bradbury Landing.
"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." 
Bradbury Landing (tire tracks, 200px)
A close-up view of Curiosity's first tire tracks.
Today's drive confirmed the health of Curiosity's mobility system and produced the rover's first wheel tracks on Mars, documented in images taken after the drive. During a news conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., the mission's lead rover driver, Matt Heverly, showed an animation derived from visualization software used for planning the first drive.
"We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead," Heverly said.
Curiosity will spend several more days of working beside Bradbury Landing, performing instrument checks and studying the surroundings, before embarking toward its first driving destination approximately 1,300 feet (400 meters) to the east-southeast.

"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 of JPL. "Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress."

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