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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Mars rover Curiosity gears up for Wednesday test drive

•, By Irene Klotz
 The one-ton, nuclear-powered robotic geologist, which landed inside a Martian crater on August 6, will get instructions for a 30-minute drive, mission manager Michael Watkins told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. 

Later in the day, Curiosity will drive about 10 feet, turn its wheels, then drive back to its landing site, ending up at a 90-degree angle from where it touched down inside Gale Crater.

  "We want to park in a place we've exactly examined. We just want to be extra safe," Watkins said. 

Ultimately, scientists plan to drive the six-wheeled rover, which is about the size of a small car, to a 3-mile-high (5-km-high) mound of layered rock rising from the center of the crater's floor, the primary target of the $2.5 billion, two-year mission.

  Scientists believe the mound, known as Mount Sharp, is the remnant of sediment that once completely filled the 96-mile-wide (154-km-wide) basin.

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