The Curiosity rover likely will spend the rest of the year monitoring the Martian weather, collecting radiation data and analyzing rock and soil samples near its landing site in Gale Crater. Only then will it head for its ultimate target, the rugged foothills of Mount Sharp just four-and-a-half miles -- but many months -- away, the project scientist said Friday.
John Grotzinger told reporters the nuclear-powered rover continues to sail through its initial test and checkout phase with no major problems or anomalies. The latest successes to report include activation of a neutron generator in a Russian instrument known as DAN, for Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons, that will be used to look for traces of sub-surface water when science operations begin in earnest.
"The excitement from the point of view of the science team is all the instruments continue to check out and we're very pleased to report the DAN instrument, which is a neutron generator, was turned on today and operated successfully," Grotzinger said. "That instrument operates by executing a one-microsecond pulse and it does 10 of those per second, and it did it for 15 minutes, roughly.
"At the same time that instrument was operating, the RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector) was listening to DAN and confirmed that it wa... [Read more]