Thursday, August 23, 2012

MSL/Curiosty: Welcome to Bradbury Landing

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Enjoy this view from Bradbury Landing. The above mosaic of 23 images is a 360-degree panorama showing evidence of a successful first test drive for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) / Curiosity rover. On August 22nd, the rover made its first move, going forward about 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotating 120 degrees and then reversing about 8 feet (2.5 meters). Curiosity is about 20 feet (6 meters) from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing. The images were made by Curiosity's Navigation cameras (Navcams).

Visible in the image are the rover's first track marks. A small 3.5-inch (9-centimeter) rock can be seen where the drive began, which engineers say was partially under one of the rear wheels. Scour marks left by the rover's descent stage during landing can be seen to the left and right of the wheel tracks. The lower slopes of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) are visible at the top of the picture, near the center.

The MSL science team's new name for Curiosity's landing site was approved by NASA. The name is in memory of the influential author Ray Douglas Bradbury, who was born 92 years ago on August 22nd.

The choice of the name was not a difficult one for the MSL mission team. Many of the team members, as well as millions of other readers, were inspired by the stories of Bradbury, who also wrote of the possibility of life on Mars. In a career spanning more than 70 years, Ray Bradbury inspired generations of readers to dream, think and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and nearly 50 books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. Bradbury's groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted 65 of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree.

Curiosity's August 22nd drive confirmed the health of the rover's mobility system and produced the rover's first wheel tracks on Mars. Curiosity will spend several more days of working beside Bradbury Landing, performing instrument checks and studying the surroundings, before embarking toward its first driving destination approximately 1,300 feet (400 meters) to the east-southeast.

The science team has begun pointing instruments on the rover's mast for investigating specific targets of interest near and far. The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument used a laser and spectrometers this week to examine the composition of rocks exposed when the spacecraft's landing engines blew away several inches of overlying material. Over its two-Earth-year prime mission, Curiosity will use its 10 science instruments to assess whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Landed in Gale Crater on Mars on August 5th PDT (August 6th EDT), NASA's Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C., by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (Caltech). More information about Curiosity is online at and . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: .


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