Curiosity completes first successful drive

Added by on August 24, 2012

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity completed its first drive on Thursday, 16 days after landing on Mars. Scientists announced they have named the Curiosity’s landing site for the late author Ray Bradbury.

Curiosity’s first drive tested the rover’s software upgrade and drive system – the rover drove forward, turned, and reversed – placing the rover about 6m (20ft) from where it originally landed. The drive was confirmed using data from the rover’s sensors, plus photos of the tracks it created on the martian surface.

“We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead,” said Matt Heverly, Curiosity’s lead rover driver.

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 (400m1,300 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.

NASA approved the Curiosity science team’s choice to name the landing ground for Ray Bradbury, an influential author – best known for his book Fahrenheit 451, 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.”

Curiosity began a two-year prime mission on Mars when the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft delivered the car-size rover to its landing target inside Gale Crater on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). The mission will use 10 science instruments on the rover to assess whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.