August 31, 2012 | 9
Twenty-two days after dropping in on the Red Planet, Curiosity continued to prep for its most excellent adventure. The plutonium-powered mobile lab took its longest spin yet on Tuesday. Its third drive was more than a test, however, moving the rover eastward about 16 meters on the first leg of its weeks-long trip to its first destination, a site called Glenelg. Here Curiosity will find three types of terrain and a locale ripe with rocks for analysis. This image, taken by the rover's navigation camera, shows soil gathered from its recent foray caked on its right middle and rear wheels.
Before the mobile lab reaches Glenelg, project scientists plan to make more pit stops than a vacationing family who drank too many Big Gulps. These pauses will be used to test rover systems and gather data. During the next layover scientists will test Curiosity's robotic arm and its instrumentation. At Tuesday's stop, the Mast Camera gathered images of the rover's ultimate destination, 5.5-kilometer Mount Sharp's lower slope.
—Michael J. Battaglia
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