Just one day into its new mission on the surface of Mars, NASA’s newest rover, Curiosity, is already hard at work. The car-sized explorer is currently booting up scientific instruments to measure a host of variables on the planet’s surface. “[Today] it is set to use motors and actuators to deploy its vertical remote-sensing mast, which houses a laser that will be used to zap rocks to measure their chemical composition, as well as Curiosity’s best cameras, designed to take high-quality color images.” The cameras’ first task will be to photograph a calibration target mounted on the rover itself.
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What’s the Big Idea?
Curiosity’s successful landing is an enormous step forward for NASA, both as a technological achievement and a piece of good news for the space agency, which is simultaneously facing deep budget cuts and big cost overruns on projects like the James Webb Space Telescope. Now that Curiosity is safely on the surface of Mars, it will gradually explore the planet’s geographical record in search of past planetary changes, such as the emergence and cessation of liquid water flows that may have supported basic forms of life. Tomorrow, Curiosity will be tasked with positioning its antenna to establish a better telecom connection with Earth.