The robotic explorer Curiosity is ready to test its six wheels to see whether it can roll along the Martian soil and fire its rock-vaporising laser for the first time in the next few days, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California announced on Friday.

Since its landing on August 5, engineers have been testing Curiosity’s instruments to make sure they function well.

The Martian rover has measured the local environment, determining that the temperature surrounding the rover was 2.8 degrees Centigrade, according to JPL.

It has also taken photos of the surrounding terrain at the base of Mount Sharp, the rover’s eventual target.

Within the next couple of days, the team plans to test the wheel movements and see if the rover is ready to go.

The rover will move to its nearest scientific targets — surface areas that were scorched by the rover’s descent stage rockets, uncovering some interesting rocks beneath.

The first major driving target has been named Glenelg, which lies a bit east of the rover’s landing spot, according to JPL.

Prior to the rover’s trip to Glenelg, the team in charge of Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera instrument, or ChemCam, is planning to give their mast-mounted, rock-zapping laser and telescope combination a thorough checkout.

On Saturday night, ChemCam is expected to “zap” its first rock in the name of planetary science. It will be the first time such a powerful laser has been used on the surface of another world.

— Xinhua

RELATED NEWS

Sounding out the Red planetAugust 29, 2012