NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced yesterday that it has dubbed the landing site of the Mars rover Curiosity "Bradbury Landing" in honor of sci-fi author Ray Bradbury. It was the Curiosity science team that chose to honor Bradbury, who passed away back in June, and the announcement coincided with what would have been Bradbury's 92nd birthday.
"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."
The honor seems fitting, considering Bradbury's most popular work was The Martian Chronicles, which portrayed a human invasion of Mars. Bradbury attended several NASA space mission events throughout his life, and this week's announcement was commemorated by the agency with a video of Bradbury reading his poem "If Only We Had Taller Been" at a symposium just before the Mariner 9 orbiter reached Mars in 1971.
Apart from the landing site name, NASA also announced yesterday that Curiosity has successfully taken its first test drive. The rover tested its mobility by driving, turning, and reversing. The short trip took the rover about 20 feet from where it originally landed, and the tracks it left in the Martian surface can be seen in the photo above.
"We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead," said Matt Heverly, the mission's lead rover driver.
Curiosity still has several more days of testing ahead. Curiosity Project Manager Pete Theisinger said, "Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers. The testing and characterization activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care."
(Photo courtesy NASA/JPL)