In the image below, released by NASA this week (September 6, 2012), you can see tire tracks on Mars, left from the first drives of NASA’s Curiosity rover. Another NASA spacecract – the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting Mars since early 2006 – captured this image. The rover is seen where the tracks end.
Other rovers have left tracks on Mars, but not as deep or wide as those from Curiosity, which is significantly larger than previous rovers.
On September 4, Curiosity completed a drive of 100 feet (30.5 meters). This was during the mission’s Sol 29 – its 29th Martian day. The rover is traveling southeastward and made a zigzag move partway through the drive in order to skirt some sand. This was the mission’s longest drive so far and brought total driving distance to 358 feet (109 meters).
Curiosity will not be traveling for several days, while space engineers check out its robotic arm. At the end of that arm is an array of scientific instruments designed to test rocks and the chemicals in the Martian soil, in Curiosity’s quest for the ingredients that could support life.
Bottom line: On September 6, NASA released an image from its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing tire tracks on Mars left from the first drives of the Curiosity rover.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.