Mars rover eclipse photos to shed light on planet's composition (+video)
Scientists will use these photos to nail down the orbits of Phobos and Deimos precisely, and to determine how much they have changed over the last few years, researchers said. This information, in turn, could yield key insights about the interior of Mars, which remains largely mysterious.
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Curiosity has also hit the road recently, traveling a total of about 950 feet (290 meters) from its landing site so far, researchers said today. The rover now sits about 660 feet (200 m) from its first major science destination, a site called Glenelg where three different types of Martian terrain come together.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Exploring Mars with Curiosity
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But Curiosity will spend the next several days more or less stationary, gearing up to perform its first contact science operations on a pyramidal rock that mission scientists have named "Jake Matijevic," after a rover team member who died shortly after Curiosity landed.
The rover will investigate the 16-inch-high (25 centimeters) rock with its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, which measures elemental composition, and its Mars Hand Lens Imager close-up camera. Both APXS and MAHLI sit at the end of Curiosity's 7-foot-long (2.1 m) robotic arm.
Curiosity will also zap "Jake Matijevic" with the laser on its ChemCam instrument, which reads rock composition from the vaporized bits, scientists said.
While researchers are looking forward to reaching Glenelg, Curiosity's ultimate destination is the base of Mount Sharp, the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain rising from Gale Crater's center. Mars-orbiting spacecraft have spotted signs that Mount Sharp's foothills were exposed to liquid water long ago.
Mount Sharp's interesting deposits lie about 6 miles (10 km) away. Curiosity — which is currently covering about 100 feet (30 m) on a big driving day but should eventually kick that up to 330 feet (100 m) or so — could be ready to head toward Mount Sharp around the end of the year, rover scientists have said.
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