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NASA: Mars rover begins eastbound journey

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has begun its eastbound journey, according to a space agency report. Curiosity’s next destination is approximately a quarter mile away. NASA says that when Curiosity reaches its science destination, it may start using its drill.

This will be Curiosity’s fourth drive since landing on Mars in August. Earlier in the week, the rover moved eastward approximately 52 feet in order to test the vehicle’s mobility system and to place it in a position to study an area cleared by exhaust from one of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft’s engines.

“This drive really begins our journey toward the first major driving destination, Glenelg, and it’s nice to see some Martian soil on our wheels,” said mission manager Arthur Amador of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement. “The drive went beautifully, just as our rover planners designed it.”

The Mars rover will move eastward until it reaches Glenelg. Glenelg is an area that contains three different types of terrain. Curiosity is likely to deploy its drill to analyze the terrain.

According to NASA, the drill is attacked to Curiosity’s turret. The turret also contains a brush to remove dust, a soil scoop, a camera for close-up views, and several science tools for determining whether Mars ever had ideal conditions for microbial life.

“We are on our way, though Glenelg is still many weeks away,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in a statement. “We plan to stop for just a day at the location we just reached, but in the next week or so we will make a longer stop.”