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Mars Probe Putting Rubber To The Road PDF Print E-mail
Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 23 August 2012 05:35

PASADENA (CNS) – The Mars rover Curiosity, which is being managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory here, took its first drive on the surface of the red planet, albeit a short one.

The rover, which landed on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, rolled forward three meters on Wednesday, Aug. 22, then turned and rolled back. To prove it, the rover sent a photo that was posted on Twitter, showing its tire track on the Mars surface.

The short drive coincided with a visit by Gov. Jerry Brown to JPL, where he met with the team managing the rover and celebrated his proclamation Wednesday as "Space Day" in California.

In his proclamation, Brown said the images of Mars taken by the rover "and the technological genius inherent in the mission have captivated the world's imagination and reinvigorated our commitment to reach for the stars."

The rover's arrival on Mars capped a 36-week, 154-million- mile journey that ended with a highly complex but flawlessly executed landing sequence. Its two-year $2.5 billion mission is to search for signs that Mars might have once had water and other conditions necessary to support life and could support life in the future.

In recent days, Curiosity's various science instruments have been examining the weather on the Martian surface and the soil and rocks around it. Based on data collected since Curiosity's landing, JPL officials said the air temperature has ranged from 28 degrees to minus-103 degrees, while ground temperatures have ranged from 37 degrees to minus-132 degrees.

JPL officials noted that one of the two sets of Rover Environmental Monitoring Station wind sensors aboard the rover has not been transmitting any data.

"One possibility is that pebbles lofted during the landing hit the delicate circuit boards on one of the two REMS booms," according to JPL's Ashwin Vasavada, a Curiosity deputy project scientist.

"We will have to be more clever about using the remaining wind sensor to get wind speed and direction." Meanwhile, the rover's Twitter page announced that Curiosity's landing spot was being named Bradbury Landing, in honor of the late science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 05:37