Feeds

Curiosity preps for first Martian road trip

Rover gets ready to roll three metres from landing site

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has wiggled its four corner wheels for the first time to get ready for its first drive across the surface of the Red Planet.

Curiosity's rear right wheel

The $2.5bn six-wheeled Martian nuclear truck has been sat still on its landing site for the last two weeks, but is now gearing up to trundle out on its mission to find signs of life – and the agency said that a busted sensor was not going to get in its way.

Curiosity has been investigating the Martian weather and checking the on its surface while it prepped for its first drive, checking air and ground temperature, air pressure, wind and other variables every hour.

The rover's weather station readings sent back to Earth revealed that one of its wind sensors was broken, sending back nonsense data to NASA.

"One possibility is that pebbles lofted during the landing hit the delicate circuit boards on one of the two REMS booms," said Curiosity deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada. "We will have to be more clever about using the remaining wind sensor to get wind speed and direction."

Even with the trashed sensor, the space agency has determined that so far (over the past two weeks) the air temperature has swung from -2 to -75 degrees Celsius, while ground temperatures between the afternoon and the pre-dawn morning can plunge from 3 to -91 degrees Celsius. NASA plans to use Curiosity to give a daily Mars weather report online.

A Russian instrument on board the rover is also prospecting for water in the top three feet of soil under the vehicle, using the same technology that's used to find oil on Earth.

"Curiosity has begun shooting neutrons into the ground," said Igor Mitrofanov of Space Research Institute, Moscow, the principal investigator for the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons or DAN. "We measure the amount of hydrogen in the soil by observing how the neutrons are scattered, and hydrogen on Mars is an indicator of water."

Now that the rover has got the data from the landing site, it's time to move on to a new patch of soil in its search for evidence that water is or once was on Mars. Late last night, NASA sent Curiosity the commands to start its first drive today, going forward three metres and then backing up a little less than that, Mars Space Lab mission manager Mike Watkins said.

If Curiosity manages that manoeuvre, it'll be ready to take off across the planet for real in three or four days, after it completes a few more tests and activities at the landing site. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?