Curiosity Goes on First Road Trip Looking for Rock Samples

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NASA announced that they’re getting ready to send Curiosity out on it’s first driving mission on the surface of Mars. The little rover that could is heading from it’s landing point in Gale Crater to Glenelg, a “natural intersection of three kinds of terrain”, to drill for rock samples. Because they plan to test fire the laser before they go, one could say this is a real “rock and roll” maneuver. 

It’s not exactly an epic journey; Glenelg is, in fact, only 1300 feet away from Curiosity’s current location. Then again, when you’re doing something on Mars, everything is pretty freaking epic. NASA pointed out that there’s no GPS on Mars, so they’re going to have a room full of scientists figuring out how to get there.

Before they go, though, the Curiosity team needs to everything: Make sure the wheels turn, prep the flag-planting apparatus, etc. Most importantly, they need test the rover’s laser, the Chemistry and Camera Instrument (you can call it “chemcam”). Yes, that’s right folks. NASA is once again blowing stuff up for science. Unfortunately, they had to go and name the rock they are planning to shoot, making it just a little less exciting.

Roger Wiens, principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, summed up exactly what’s going to happen fairly well:

Rock N165 looks like your typical Mars rock, about three inches wide. It’s about 10 feet away[.] We are going to hit it with 14 millijoules of energy 30 times in 10 seconds. It is not only going to be an excellent test of our system, it should be pretty cool too.

You know what, I take it back. That still sounds awesome.

(via NASA)

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