NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drove about 70 feet (about 21 meters) on the mission’s 21st Martian day, or sol (Aug. 30, 2012) and then took images with its Navigation Camera that are combined into this scene, which inclues the fresh tracks. This full-circle view is centered toward the south, with north at both ends.
A drive early Monday placed Curiosity directly over a patch where one of the spacecraft’s landing engines scoured away a few inches of gravelly soil and exposed underlying rock. Researchers plan to use a neutron-shooting instrument on the rover to check for water molecules bound into minerals at this partially excavated target.
Curiosity is 3 weeks into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.
Amazingly Curiosity already is returning more data from the Martian surface than have all of NASA’s earlier rovers combined, which shows how the investment is worthwhile and also paves the way for a man mission at some point!