After a nail-biting entry and descent followed by firing off a few breathtaking images inside Gale Crater, Curiosity is about to begin the mission it was designed so well for. Prospecting for ancient biotic gold:
RT – On Friday, the rover is expected to hit the road and begin its journey to ‘Glenelg,’ located some 400 meters from its current position. Three types of terrain converge there, enabling Curiosity to drill for several different rock types and collect samples for study in its onboard chemical lab.
Previous test runs of the rover involved a 110-meter-long drive, and calibration of the robotic arm-mounted camera dubbed the ‘Mars Hand Lens Imager’ (MAHLI). The rover successfully operated the camera after opening MAHLI’s dust cap for the first time since landing on Mars.
The calibration target includes a 1909 Lincoln penny – a symbolic nod to geologists’ tradition of using a coin or a similar small object as a reference in close-ups of rock samples. MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett, who purchased the penny, said the Martian setting was something “the people who minted these coins never imagined.”