THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) began remotely driving its Curiosity rover around the surface of Mars today.
The NASA space centre said that tests on the rover successfully directed it to drive forward, turn and reverse, moving it around six metres from its original landing site. After more tests on its systems, NASA intends to move the Curiosity rover some 400 metres to the southeast to continue its exploration of the red planet.
"Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers," said project manager Pete Theisinger.
"The testing and characterisation activities during the initial weeks of the mission lay important groundwork for operating our precious national resource with appropriate care. Sixteen days in, we are making excellent progress."
NASA also released images of the tracks left by the rover (see below), to show the success of the mission, and the mission's lead rover driver, Matt Heverly, said it was an exciting next step in the exploration.
"We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead," he said.
NASA also confirmed that the original landing site of the Curiosity rover would be named after the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury who died earlier this year, and will be known as the Bradbury Landing.
"This was not a difficult choice for the science team," said Michael Meyer, NASA program scientist for Curiosity.
"Many of us and millions of other readers were inspired in our lives by stories Ray Bradbury wrote to dream of the possibility of life on Mars." µ
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