The fabulous Curiosity Rover sent by NASA to explore the surface of Mars has started it’s trek to a location over 400 metres away. The journey will not be the quickest taking several weeks but the journey is not it’s first have managed two previous small drives without problems. The target is a feature they have called Gleneig – at this point three different types of Martian terrain meet and scientists are keen to examine the location.
They are hoping that it will yield their first rock target which Curiosity is capable of drilling and analysing itself. THe rover itself is actually capable of operating in a 20 km radius of it’s landing point which gives the scientists a lot of leeway in deciding on how and what to explore. All the time the Mastcam fiitted to the rover is sending back lots of images which are also used to help navigate and calculate the best routes.
The rover is also fitted with lots of cameras, laser systems and robot arms and tools. The rover is powered by an on board nuclear battery which is fitted to the 900 kg frame. It’s a complete science lab on wheels and is without doubt the most sophisticated rover ever sent into space.
If you’re interested in the missions there’s lots more information and images available on the NASA web site. There’s also lots of great information on the BBC web site including some excellent documentaries from the science team which are available on BBC Iplayer. If you can’t access these great shows from your location then all you need is a fake address using a web proxy – see here. The technique works by routing your browser through a UK proxy server which fools the site into thinking you’re based in the UK.