For the past month, the Curiosity Mars Rover has been methodically giving itself a health checkup, which it has been passing almost flawlessly, says NASA.
Since Curiosity landed inside Mars' Gale Crater on Aug. 5, researchers have been systematically checking out the rover's systems and its 10 science instruments to make sure they're all in good working condition. Those inspections have gone very well and should be finished by the end of Curiosity's next Martian day, or sol, mission team members said today.
"The success so far of these activities has been outstanding," said Curiosity mission manager Jennifer Trosper, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Throughout every phase of the checkouts, Curiosity has performed almost flawlessly."
And this commissioning phase of Curiosity's two-year mission has proceeded pretty much exactly on schedule, Trosper added. [11 Amazing Things Curiosity Can Do]
"Our estimate for the checkout activities was 25 sols, and it's taken us 26," Trosper told reporters today, explaining that a 12-sol stretch of driving activities brings Curiosity to its current Sol 37 on Mars. "So, not bad."
Curiosity has spent the last six sols methodically testing out its 7-foot-long (2.1 meters) robotic arm, which bears several tools on its end, including a rock-boring drill and a camera called the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI.
One more sol of arm checkouts remains, Trosper said. The team also plans to point Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) toward the sky today, to watch the Martian moon Phobos cross the face of the sun. Then the $2.5 billion robot will be ready to move its six wheels again for the first time in more than a week.
"After that, starting on Friday evening, the plan is to drive, drive, drive," Trosper said.
Curiosity will stop when it finds a rock scientists deem a suitable target for observations with MAHLI and the rover's Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer instrument (APXS), which also sits on the robotic arm's turret, Trosper said.
APXS measures the abundance of chemical elements in rock and soil by exposing the material to X-rays and alpha particles (helium nuclei, consisting of two protons and two neutrons).