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Curiosity Mars rover tells us that it is feeling pretty good so far

For the past month, the Curiosity Mars Rover has been methodically giving itself a health checkup, which it has been passing almost flawlessly, says NASA.

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Searching for habitable environments

Curiosity's chief task is to determine if the Gale Crater area has ever been capable of supporting microbial life. The rover's primary science target is the base of Mount Sharp — a mysterious 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain rising from Gale's center — where Mars-orbiting spacecraft have spotted signs of long-ago exposure to liquid water.

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But Curiosity isn't headed yet to Mount Sharp's foothills, which lie about 6 miles (10 km) away. It's on its way first to a spot called Glenelg, where three different types of terrain come together in one place.

Glenelg sits about 1,300 feet (400 m) from Curiosity's landing site. So far, the rover has driven 269 feet (82 m) as the crow flies on the trek to Glenelg. While the mission team eventually wants Curiosity to go about 330 feet (100 m) in a big driving day, at present they're only willing to push it about 131 feet (40 m) or so per sol, Trosper said.

After Curiosity studies the rock with MAHLI and APXS, it will find a sandy area to do its first soil scooping. The rover will deposit dirt into the analytical instruments on its body, the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument (SAM) and the Chemistry and Mineralogy tool, or CheMin.

Then the rover will test out its drill for the first time. That will be an exciting moment for the team, for the drill allows Curiosity to bore 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) into rock — deeper than any other Mars robot has been able to go.

Drilling isn't quite imminent, however, since Curiosity has several big tasks to check off first.

"It's on the order of a month-type timeframe for drilling," Trosper said.

Follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also onFacebook and Google+.

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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