Mars Rover Curiosity Prepares For Long Drive

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NASA today revealed that Mars rover Curiosity will soon wrap up its exploration of the Glenelg area and shift into a distance-driving mode. The rover is headed for an area at the base of Mount Sharp, about 5 miles from its current location.

"We're hitting full stride," said Jim Erickson, Project Manager for the Mars Science Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We needed a more deliberate pace for all the first-time activities by Curiosity since landing, but we won't have many more of those."

Some of those first-time activities include scooping Martian soil, analyzing its chemical makeup, and drilling a rock to obtain rock powder. A second rock drilling (seen above) took place just last Month.

Most of the drilling has occurred near Glenelg, where varied terrain interesting to researchers converges. No more scooping or drilling is now planned for the area.

Curiosity has already driven over one third of a mile during its time on Mars. To reach Mount Sharp will take "many months" of driving, as researchers are bound to find interesting things to look at along the way.

"We don't know when we'll get to Mount Sharp," said Erickson. "This truly is a mission of exploration, so just because our end goal is Mount Sharp doesn't mean we're not going to investigate interesting features along the way."

(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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