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Continued: NASA's Curiosity rover celebrates landing on Mars; drives toward mountain

  • Article by: ALICIA CHANG , AP Science Writer
  • Last update: August 5, 2013 - 11:39 AM

Curiosity discovered rounded pebbles — clear evidence of an ancient streambed. It also fulfilled one of the mission's main goals. By drilling into a rock and analyzing its chemistry, Curiosity concluded that Gale Crater possessed the right environmental conditions to support primitive life. It's not equipped to look for microbes, living or extinct.

With Curiosity busy studying rocks and dirt, the start date for the mountain trek kept getting pushed back. At one point, the team declined to predict anymore.

Now that it's finally on the move, scientists hope to keep stops to a minimum. Along the way, Curiosity will take pictures, check the weather, track radiation and fire its laser at rocks.

Curiosity was such a smash that NASA is preparing for an encore performance in 2021 using the same landing technology. Budget willing, the next rover will be able to collect rocks and store them on the Martian surface for a possible future mission to pick up and ferry back to Earth.

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