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Ray Bradbury: Why NASA named Curiosity landing site after SciFi writer

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Curiosity took its first test drive on Mars Wednesday, rolling forward, then turning in place and photographing its tracks on the Red Planet.

"I kind of like the name. For one, it was the majority vote by the science team, having been inspired by Ray Bradbury," Meyer added. The name also is a nod to the era of ocean exploration on Earth that took adventurers to many new lands, he added.

 NASA has a long tradition of naming landing sits on Mars after scientists and other icons related to space exploration or the Red Planet.

"Since sending the first rover to Mars in 1997, NASA has made it a tradition to name its landing sites after visionaries and explorers who devoted their lives to expanding our boundaries," said Robert Pearlman, editor of the space history website collectSPACE.com and SPACE.com contributor.

"Previous sites are now named in tribute to astronomer Carl Sagan and the fallen astronauts of space shuttles Challenger and Columbia," Pearlman added. "'Bradbury Landing,' named after the late author Ray Bradbury, is a fitting tribute to a man who, through his writings, inspired us to imagine life on Mars — both alien and human. Those themes parallel Curiosity's goals of seeking out signs of habitable environments for past and present Martian life and advancing the day when humans can follow the rover to the Red Planet."

NASA named the Mars Pathfinder lander that touched down on Mars in 1997 with the Sojourner rover the "Carl Sagan Memorial Station." The 2004 landing sites of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are dubbed the "Columbia Memorial Station" and "Challenger Memorial Station," respectively.

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