"Rover takes its first spin on Mars"
August 22nd, 2012
NASA's Curiosity rover successfully completed its first drive on Mars Wednesday.
"We have a fully functioning mobility system," announced Matt Heverly, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The size of a small car, Curiosity rolled forward about 15 feet, rotated its wheels 120 degrees and then rolled backward about 8 feet.
A series of images from rover cameras showed tracks left by its six wheels in firm soil.
"We should have smooth sailing ahead of us," Heverly said.
The images offered a look back at the site where Curiosity landed Aug. 6 (Eastern Time).
Mission managers announced they had named that site Bradbury Landing in honor of science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, whose works include The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury, who died in June, would have turned 92 Wednesday.
The test drive is part of a health checkup the rover has been undergoing since arriving on Aug. 5. Eventually, the rover could roam hundreds of feet a day over the ancient crater where it landed.
Meanwhile, researchers discovered a damaged wind sensor while checking out instruments that Curiosity will use to check the Martian weather and soil.
A second sensor is operating and should do the job.
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