Mars Rover Curiosity Begins Months-Long Journey


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One month ago, Mars rover Curiosity began preparing for a 5-mile drive by shifting into a distance-driving mode. Today, NASA announced that the first small steps in that long journey have begun.

The rover finished investigating an outcrop named "Shaler" early last week before leaving the "Glenelg" area on July 4. Curiosity drove 59 feet (18 meters), and then drove an additional 131 feet (40 meters) on July 7. The rover's complete journey will take several months, with researchers stopping to explore interesting terrain encountered along the way.

Curiosity is headed toward an area at the base of a mountain named Mount Sharp, which is located in the middle of Gale Crater, where the rover landed back in August 2012. Researchers hope to examine the layers that make up Mount Sharp, discovering how the red planet has changed throughout its long history. The rover has already discovered evidence that Mars was once wet and that its surface conditions were once favorable to early life, corroborating a recent Oxford University study.

Curiosity's first 10 months on Mars and its tentative discoveries are all covered in NASA's latest Rover Report, narrated by Ashwin Vasavada, a project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)