Curiosity rover on Mars begins its eastbound trek

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity set off from its landing vicinity on Tuesday (August 28, 2012) on a trek to its first major driving destination – Glenelg – about a quarter mile (400 meters) away. The rover drove eastward about 52 feet (16 meters) on Tuesday. This was the rover’s third drive on Mars, and it was longer than the first two drives combined.

Curiosity rover will make a detour to first destination on Mars

Tracks from Curiosity’s Sol 22 (August 28, 2012) – its 22nd day on Mars. Curiosity rover drove about 52 feet (16 meters) eastward, the longest drive of the mission so far. Click here to expand this image. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The two previous drives tested the mobility system and positioned the rover to examine an area scoured by exhaust left on Mars’ surface during the rover’s landing. Now Curiosity is actually heading toward Glenelg, which is a place on Mars where three types of terrain intersect.

NASA announced on August 17 that Glenelg will be the first destination for the Curiosity rover.

By the way, in the coming weeks and months, as you hear NASA scientists speak of the rover, you’re likely to hear them speaking in terms of Martian sols. Planetary and space scientists use the term sol to refer to the length of a day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or sol, is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds – only slightly longer than an earthly day. The similarity in the length of a day on Earth and on Mars has always been one attractive and fascinating feature of the Red Planet.

Curiosity’s location within the Gale Crater on Mars. Click here to expand this image.

When a spacecraft lander begins operations on Mars, it keeps track of the passing Martian days (sols) by a simple numerical count. In other words, the count begins with Sol 0 – the day the lander touched down. Tuesday was Sol 22 for Curiosity – its 22nd martian day.

Curiosity’s drive on Sol 22 imprinted the wheel tracks visible in the image in this post. The rover’s rear Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam) took the image after the drive.

Bottom line: NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity hit the road toward its first destination on Mars, a place called Glenelg, on Tuesday, August 28. That day was Sol 22 for Curiosity, its 22nd martian day. As it began moving eastward toward Glenelg, it left tracks on the Martian surface, shown in the photo in this post.

August 30, 2012

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Deborah Byrd

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