Mars Rover Curiosity Takes First Drive on Mars
August 23, 2012 4:48 PM
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Curiosity's first tire tracks on Mars
NASA engineers also named the Curiosity landing site after the late author Ray Bradbury
Mars rover Curiosity
took its first drive across Martian terrain this week in another round of successful tests for the car-sized space traveler.
Curiosity took part in a series of tests where it performed forward, reverse and turn segments. It moved about 20 feet total from its landing site.
"Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers," said Pete Theisinger, Curiosity project manager. "The testing and characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care."
The Mars rover's latest successful test runs demonstrates its healthy status, and shows that it's ready for the next round of tests. Curiosity will take part in several more days of testing, where the
use of its various instruments
will be the next on the list.
In addition to Curiosity's small trek on Mars, NASA engineers are also celebrating the new name they've given Curiosity's landing site -- Bradbury Landing.
The landing site was named after author Ray Bradbury, who wrote fantasy and science fiction stories (many about Mars). He died June 5 of this year.
"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."
NASA rover Curiosity is a one-ton, nuclear-powered, six-wheeled machine that is also known as the Mars Science Laboratory -- because that's exactly what it is. It was made to explore Martian territory for a two-year period in hopes of discovering that the planet once harbored materials needed for life. The project cost $2.5 billion.
Curiosity launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars August 6, 2012 at 1:32 a.m. It was a tricky landing procedure, but it was a success and Curiosity's testing has also turned out well so far. In fact, the rover recently
zapped its first rock
on Mars using its laser.
Once testing is complete, Curiosity will drive 1,300 feet to the east-southeast for its first official destination for exploration.
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8/24/2012 10:35:58 AM
Since it takes several minutes to send a command, several minutes to receive any data back from what that command did, and time for that command to be executed, it takes a while to even test something simple such as move forward.
If something got wired wrong and you tell it turn right and instead it turns left, and you just tell it to turn right and go forward at full speed, by the time you figure out it went the wrong way, you have wasted a lot of time and energy doing something wrong.
Plus all of the motor sensors must be checked and recalibrated if they are out of calibration after the trip. Same with all of the spectrometers and other testing equipment. I know here in the lab we check and calibrate our spectrometers daily or even every 12 hours to compensate for drift, I can only imagine what it must be like to keep those instruments in calibration in such an uncontrolled environment as Mars would be.
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