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Physical Chemistry

Rover Performs Well During Battery Of Tests After Landing On Mars

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
August 27, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 35

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, on which sits the instrument-packed Mars Science Laboratory, took its first test drive on Mars’s surface last week, moving 20 feet from its landing spot. Curiosity, which landed inside Gale Crater on Aug. 6, contains lasers, a chemistry laboratory, spectrometers, and gas chromatographs that will analyze dust and rocks for organic markers of possible past life (C&EN, Aug. 13, page 7). On Aug. 19, Curiosity fired its laser beam at a small rock named Coronation, confirming the instrument’s ability to capture the spectra of vaporized dust from the rock. Engineers have also unfurled the rover’s robotic arm and tested the turning ability of the rover’s wheels, team members said. One of two sensors that monitor wind velocity suffered damage, likely during landing, the team said. The $2.5 billion project has been given a two-year lifetime, although many planetary missions, including NASA’s Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, have lasted many years beyond their expiration dates.


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