Image Caption: Martian Soil caked on Curiosity’s right middle and rear wheels after Sol 22 Drive. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mars Trek has begun for NASA’s Curiosity rover. The mega rover has departed from her touchdown vicinity at “Bradbury Landing” and set off on a multi-week eastwards traverse to her first science target which the team has dubbed “Glenelg”
Glenelg lies about a quarter mile (400 meters) away and the car-sized rover drove about 52 feet (16 meters) on Tuesday, Aug 28 or Sol 22 of the mission.
The science team selected Glenelg as the first target for detailed investigation because it sits at the intersection of three types of geologic terrain, affording the researchers the chance to get a much more comprehensive look at the diversity of geology inside the Gale Crater landing site.
The Sol 22 drive was the third overall for Curiosity and the farthest so far. At this new location, some 33 feet ( 10 m) from Bradbury Landing , the Mastcam color camera is collecting high resolution images to create a 3 D map of features off in the distance that will aid the rover drivers in planning a safe traverse route.
“This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg, and it’s nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels,” said mission manager Arthur Amador of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it.”
In about a week, the science team plans to deploy the 7 ft (2.1 meter) long robotic arm and test the science instruments in the turret positioned at the terminus of the arm.
“We are on our way, though Glenelg is still many weeks away,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “We plan to stop for just a day at the location we just reached, but in the next week or so we will make a longer stop.”
Perhaps in about a year or so, Curiosity will reach the base of Mount Sharp, her ultimate destination, and begin climbing up the side of the 3.6 mile (5.5 km) high mound in search of hydrated minerals that will shed light on the duration of Mars watery past.
The goal is to determine if Mars ever had habitats capable of supporting microbial life in the past or present during the 2 year long primary mission phase. Curiosity is equipped with a sophisticated array of 10 state of the art science instruments far beyond any prior rover.
Image Caption: Curiosity Points to her ultimate drive destination – Mount Sharp – with unstowed robotic arm on Aug. 20. This navigation camera (Navcam) mosaic was assembled from images on multiple Sols. Curiosity will search for hydrated minerals using the robotic arm and a neutron detector on the body. Image stitching and processing by Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo. Featured at APOD on 27 Aug 2012. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo
Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight – www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter