Curiosity's first tire tracks on Mars  (Source:
NASA engineers also named the Curiosity landing site after the late author Ray Bradbury

NASA's 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.

Source: NASA

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