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Mars Curiosity: Software makeover will allow rover to 'stretch her wheels'

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This is the first image taken by the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover. It shows the shadow of the rover's now-upright mast in the center, and the arm's shadow at left. The arm itself can be seen in the foreground.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab Holds Viewing Of Mars Curiosity Rover Landing

NASA/Getty Images

One of the first images taken by Curiosity, with one of its wheels visible on the Martian surface.

NASA

Curiosity, meet Mars: An early image sent back from the Mars rover Curiosity is an image of its own shadow.


KPCC reporters have been talking to Southland scientists and engineers and counting down the days until NASA's most ambitious rover yet — Curiosity — prepares to land on the Martian surface. Follow the series online.

Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are giving the Mars rover Curiosity a new set of software, so that it can begin its mission of searching for life on the Red Planet.

On Friday scientists started replacing the landing software that guided Curiosity through its descent into the Martian atmosphere and its landing at Gale Crater. Over the next four days, they will be installing new software. Engineer Ben Cichy says the new software, known as R-10, will allow Curiosity to get down to the business of its mission.

“R-10 software gives us the capability to use the robotic arm fully, to use the drill, to use the dust removal tool," he said. "So all this exciting stuff that you’re gonna see this mission do over the next few months and years on Mars, you’re gonna see that comes from the capabilities that are in this R-10 software.” 

Cichy says the R-10 software will also allow Curiosity to drive and “stretch her wheels” on the Red Planet.

Officials at JPL say they're not sure when Curiosity might be ready to start driving around Gale Crater and digging into the rocks and soil.

JPL also confirmed that Sunday night’s landing went as well as expected.

Curiosity did land about a mile and a half from the center of its target, but mission experts say that was well within the zone they were aiming for. They speculate that a slight tail wind may have been the reason Curiosity did not hit the bullseye.

Also on KPCC:

Follow Curiosity's own tweets from Mars—plus Mohawk Guy and JPL

Check out our full gallery of photos from the Red Planet!

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