NASA Curiosity Rover is making its way toward its first target, Glenelg Intrigue, but with stops along the way for photo ops and science work. Curiosity is taking photos not only of planned stops, but of the landing site Bradbury Landing and planned routes to its ultimate goal, Mount Sharp. These photos, including at least one stereo pair that will produce a three-dimensional look at the route to Mount Sharp, will help the rover’s “drivers” program better drives.
Curiosity is also sending back more of its spectacular HD photography, including a view of Mount Sharp showing excellent colors and sharply defined layers of rock exposed by constant wind and sand erosion. Many of Curiosity’s photos have shown parts of the Rover itself, and people have asked about the small, circular painted designs on its various surfaces. It turns out that the great mystery is a self-calibration technique used by robotic cameras here on Earth. Chris Leger of JPL, one of the rover’s drivers, said the markings are known as “fiducial marks,” or “fiducials” for short. Curiosity uses them to measure the location of various parts of the rover as well as to calibrate the cameras.
Glenelg is only a quarter-mile from Bradbury Landing, but as NASA Curiosity Rover continues toward its first target, it will make several stops, some lasting more than a day, to do scientific experiments and take more photographs. The entire journey will take several weeks. Once it reaches the target, Curiosity will spend a substantial amount of time there and then return to Bradbury Landing. By that time, a new program that will allow extended driving should be ready for upload.
Once the new program is installed and tested, Curiosity will begin a full Martian year (nearly two Earth years), less the time spent at Glenelg, exploration of Mount Sharp. It will be looking for geological information on the planet’s deeper crust. Mount Sharp is, after all, the upthrust center of an impact crater, and as such should contain deeper rock “splashed” out of the ground on impact by the meteor that created the crater.