Curiosity's Tracks Seen From Space
Rover takes first sniff of Martian air
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2012 2:50 AM CDT
Curiosity's tracks as seen from its rear-facing camera.   (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

(Newser) – After a month on Mars, the Curiosity rover is still going through checks, and racking up near-perfect scores. It has driven more than 350 feet from its landing site, leaving tracks that have been photographed from space by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, reports CBS. Curiosity "continues to surprise us with how well she's doing everything we ask of her," says Mission Manager Mike Watkins. "We've continued to drive a little bit. We are about a football field or so away from the touchdown point."

Most of the rover's systems are already operational and "we're getting a lot of science out of that," Watkins says. Its robot arm still needs to undergo checks, but the team hopes to start scooping up Martian soil within a few weeks. The rover has already taken a sniff of Martian air for the first tests of the Martian atmosphere's chemistry since the Viking landings in the 1970s, reports the BBC. It will measure for methane gas, which has already been detected by satellites. The presence of the short-lived gas on Mars would signal that some kind of replenishing source exists—geochemical, or possibly even biological.

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
Sep 8, 2012 5:17 AM CDT
350 feet is about 100m (get metric America!!) so that's about $25bn per kilometer so far. Ouch! (Hey! Just teasing about the 350 feet after the 550 million km to get there!)
Sep 7, 2012 1:12 PM CDT
They should write the word "Hi" or You Are Here" with Curiosity's tracks in case some other intelligent beings do a fly by.
Sep 7, 2012 10:46 AM CDT
I wonder what that greenish area in the picture is? Although I know it isn't, it looks like grass growing around a water source. I just wish I was younger and could get involved in something to do with the space program.