NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars more than a month ago, appears to be working “flawlessly” as it prepares to continue its two-year exploration of the Red Planet, the US space agency said Wednesday.
For the past week, the rover, which touched down on August 6, has undergone a series of instrument tests, as well as a rebooting of its steering computers, and everything so far appears fine, according to officials with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“Through every phase of the check-out, Curiosity has performed almost flawlessly,” said Jennifer Tropser, mission manager for Curiosity at the laboratory, adding that a final few tests would be done early Thursday.
“The success so far of these activities has been outstanding,” she told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Curiosity is on a mission to investigate whether it is possible to live on Mars and to learn whether conditions there might have been able to support life in the past.
The rover last week temporarily halted its journey across the surface of Mars as it tested the tools on its robotic arm.
It was forced for about a week to stay put in order to give technicians a chance to put its seven-foot (2.1-meter) robotic arm through a range of motions established during Earth testing.
The goal was to figure out how the arm is functioning after the long space voyage and in the different gravity and temperatures on Mars.
The arm and the soil sampling system are the last pieces of the massive rover to be put through testing, officials said.
The $2.5 billion craft has covered 109 meters (357 feet) within the Gale crater since it began trundling eastward en route to its first major destination — an intersection called Glenelg.
That site, located at a meeting point of three different types of terrain, is where NASA experts hope to find a first rock target for drilling and analysis.
Space officials have said it will be a few more weeks before the rover is in place and ready to scoop up a sample of Martian soil.
After Glenelg, Curiosity will continue on to its ultimate destination, the slopes of nearby Mount Sharp.