Curiosity begins driving at Bradbury Landing

On August 22, the rover made its first move to confirm the health of its mobility system and left its first wheel tracks on Mars.
By | Published: August 23, 2012 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
This 360-degree panorama shows evidence of a successful first test drive for NASA’s Curiosity rover. A small 3.5-inch (9 centimeters) 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 are visible at the top of the picture, near the center.
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has begun driving from its landing site, which scientists announced yesterday they have named for the late author Ray Bradbury.

Making its first movement on the martian surface August 22, Curiosity’s drive combined forward, turn, and reverse segments. This placed the rover roughly 20 feet (6 meters) from the spot where it landed August 6 EDT.

NASA has approved the Curiosity science team’s choice to name the landing ground for the influential author, who was born 92 years ago August 22 and died this year. The location where Curiosity touched down is now called 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.”

Yesterday’s drive confirmed the health of Curiosity’s mobility system and produced the rover’s first wheel tracks on Mars, documented in images taken after the drive.

“We have a fully functioning mobility system with lots of amazing exploration ahead,” said Matt Heverly, the mission’s lead rover driver from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

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 (400m) to the east-southeast.

This overhead view shows the track left after a successful first test drive for NASA’s Curiosity rover. For it’s first move, Curiosity went forward about 15 feet (4.5 meters), rotated 120 degrees and then reversed about 8 feet (2.5m). Curiosity is about 20 feet (6m) from its landing site, now named Bradbury Landing.
“Curiosity is a much more complex vehicle than earlier Mars rovers,” said Curiosity Project Manager Pete Theisinger of JPL. “The testing and characterization 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.”

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.

The instrument’s principal investigator, Roger Weins of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, reported that measurements made on the rocks in this scoured-out feature called Goulburn suggest a basaltic composition. “These may be pieces of basalt within a sedimentary deposit,” he said.

Curiosity began a two-year prime mission on Mars when the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft delivered the car-size rover to its landing target inside Gale Crater on August 6 EDT. The mission will use 10 science instruments on the rover to assess whether the area has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

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.

His 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.