Curiosity rolls!

By Phil Plait | August 22, 2012 11:27 am

Just a few minutes ago, engineers at JPL here on Earth commanded the Mars Curiosity rovers to make its first test drive! The rover rolled a few meters, stopped and took a picture of its progress:

[Click to enaresenate.]

Wow! This image was taken by the left NAVCAM (NAVigation CAMera) on Curiosity at 15:00:53 UTC (there’s a matching one by the right NAVCAM, too, and there’s already an anaglyph that’s been made). You can easily see where the wheels have disturbed the Martian surface, and where the rover made a bit of a turn as well.

I’m also fond of this picture, taken just a few minutes later at 15:03:56 UTC, also by the left NAVCAM:

Seeing the rover in the picture itself, ironically, brings home the idea that this machine is far, far away from home.

Actually, wait, scratch that. Curiosity was built to work on Mars.

It is home.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Related Posts:

Curiosity spins its wheels
Now you will feel the firepower of a fully armed and operational Mars rover
Watch as Curiosity touches down gently *and* its heat shield slams into Mars
Curiosity’s looking a little blue

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures, Top Post
MORE ABOUT: Curiosity, Mars, rover, tracks

Comments (36)

  1. Kevin

    Sure, it goes for its first drive & it starts doing donuts…

  2. JC

    Yay! Nice to see it do what it was built to do. Travel well, Mr Rover !

  3. MaTTFLaMMaBLe

    Looks like a hazy Martian day….

  4. Skylar

    Well, even robots need fun!

  5. Of course it’s got to do some donuts, how else to test out the turning radius?!

    These are such cool pictures, and really hit home just what a marvel it is that we’re able to send a robot vehicle from Earth to Mars and have it send back pictures of what it’s seeing. AI and robotics have come a long way. Imagine if this type of thing was actually properly funded? We’d probably be harvesting energy from the moons of Jupiter by now.

  6. RayG

    In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson:


  7. The Naturalist

    This is so cool. I wish NASA would do a better job of utilizing the best visualization tools for the images that are coming down. Okay we have an anaglyph, but not from NASA. Where is the video anaglyph produced from the left and right nav. cameras as the rover moves? NASA has the data for this, why don’t they do the work and post it? Why is it that NASA produces flat stretched images of panoramas, not the immersive navigable kind like enthusiasts have done at and at

  8. david razowsky

    “[Click to enaresenate.]” Will this flag me in some way, or go on my permanent record? I gotta be careful.

  9. Chris

    @1 Kevin
    Robots these days.

    Hmm, Curiosity is powered by plutonium. What happens when it reaches 88 mph?

  10. Chris P

    See how the tracks left in the dirt aren’t a regular pattern? The treads are designed in such a way that the pattern left behind includes morse code dots and dashes spelling out J P L.
    Such an awesome easter egg.

  11. Infinite123Lifer

    Can she park there? All permits in order? Parking on Mars can be such a hassle these days

    Did JPL consider “DONT PANIC” in large friendly Morse code?

  12. Wheeltracks on Mars. 8)

    Humanity has put this laser equipped, nuclear powered, roving chemistry laboratory on the red planet.

    Y’know that still impresses the living daylights outta me.

    The things we semi-naked apes can do. And learn from. :-)

    On the shoulders of giants.
    Of history.
    Of efforts and sweat and passion and love.
    Of science and politics and hard work.
    A rover
    One of a few now.
    Opportunity, rolling still.
    No, make that thrilled, delighted and more.
    Thankyou NASA-JPL
    Humanity at its best. ūüėÄ

  13. idahogie

    Anybody else get a little Martian dust in the eye when looking at those pictures?

  14. Rick

    I really,really hope they continue sending back the data from both of the stereo cameras and that folks starting creating .mpo and 3D jpg files from them. Anaglyph just doesn’t do these shots justice.

    I understand folks are skeptical of the virtues of 3D movies, but 3D still photography is far superior to 2D. In video, the movement of the camera (and subjects in the scene) gives a great deal of depth information, so having stereo vision isn’t as big of a deal. There are no such cues in still photos, so stereo shots can be (comparatively) stunning.

  15. Thomas Siefert

    Jeremy Clarkson: “Some say that he so fast that he eliminates the radio signal lag between Earth and Mars, others claim that his helmet is airtight and will sustain him on Mars. Here he is, The Stig, who will now be taking Curiosity for a spin ’round our track to prove that this is the coolest car in the World….. eh…. OFF the World.”

  16. Chris

    @12 Messier
    Humanity has put this laser equipped, nuclear powered, roving chemistry laboratory on the red planet.

    When the Martians sent a similar probe to Earth we called it “War of the Worlds”

  17. Fantastic news and fantastic photos!! I am truly amazed at the clarity of these images…from Mars! Thanks, Phil.

  18. Jim Scotti

    Nice to see dirt on the top of the wheels finally! Ray Bradbury would have been very pleased to see these images on his 92nd birthday today!

  19. I noticed that on the BBC news video of the NASA news report, the speaker (Matt Heverly) casually used the word “yestersol” to describe the previous day on Mars. I hadn’t heard that one before, but I suppose it makes sense to use different words for the days on Mars which are half an hour longer than our own, and therefore don’t keep in step with Earth days.

  20. That’s one giant roll for a rover! Woo hoo!

  21. Dan

    Does that not totally look like a footprint on the ground in the tread marks?

    OMG – It’s a footprint! These pictures are actually taken out in Death Valley, California! At the same location the Moon landing was faked! Conspiracy, conspiracy!

  22. Michael Simmons

    If I was an advanced alien race that had been visiting the Earth (there isn’t one) what I would do is put some foot prints and a lens cap on the ground near the rover and let it take some photos of them.

    Everyone out side of the government would think the whole thing was faked.
    The government on the other hand would know that the aliens existed and where taking the micky out of them (i.e. have a sense of humor).

  23. JohnDoe

    Am I the only one who cannot fuse the anaglyph? I’d say the eye separation is _way_ too large to get any kind of 3d impression.

  24. flip

    Wow, has the resolution on these cameras improved over the decades. Such clear pics with such detail… sigh… the things we apes can do…

  25. George Martin

    You can see an image, after Curiosity finished its test drive and looking back here:

    There is also an animation of what was done during the test drive here:


  26. George Martin

    During today’s teleconference, it was announce that they have decided to name Curiosity’s landing spot Bradbury Landing. Of course this is in honor of Ray Bradbury who died just two months before Curiosity landed. As I think I remember, Bradbury Landing will be delineated by the area bounded by the front and rear steering wheels at the spot where Curiosity landed and will not change any other names already assigned.



    You can find the recorded video of the teleconference here:


    Just before the “meat” of the teleconference and at the end, there are video tributes to Ray Bradbury.

  27. Kevpod

    Aren’t the wheel treads encoded with data of some sort, in that they leave trackable marks? I thought I heard something about that.

  28. Chris

    @27 Kevpod
    The wheels have JPL in Morse code.

  29. VJBinCT

    Having ‘home’ and ‘NASA’ in the same post just reminded me of a coffee table book of views of earth in space published in the 70’s or 80’s. It’s called ‘The Home Planet’, such a hopeful title that seems perfect for children of a future human diaspora to remind them of where they originally came from. Not going to reach the stars for a long time, but one can hope it will happen.

  30. Frank

    enaresenate? Have they forgotten how to spell “enlarge” or “zoom”? Even didn’t recognize it. I bet it has something to do with the Tea Party trying to take over the US Senate, which would be really, really bad for NASA.

  31. Jcinpv

    Okay, so what does ‘enaresenate’ mean?

  32. #30 Frank:
    A dictionary wouldn’t recognise it, because Dr. Plait made it up! As everyone who has read this blog for more than one day knows, this is a long-running joke between Dr. Plait and his readers. It began with him using the word “embiggen”, which I gather originates from an episode of The Simpsons, and has progressed to inventing joke words appropriate to the subject of the picture. In this case, “enaresenate”, as Ares is the Greek name for Mars.

  33. CR

    @15 Thomas Siefert
    Ha! That’s hilarious. Your ‘quote’ actually seems real. :)

    @29 VJBinCT
    ‘The Home Planet’ came out in the 1980’s, and yes, it featured stunning mostly low-orbit pics of Earth (some were from farther away). I still have a copy buried in my personal library… too many books for bookcases, let alone for a coffee table!

  34. Nigel Depledge

    Chris (9) said:

    Hmm, Curiosity is powered by plutonium. What happens when it reaches 88 mph?

    If it has no Flux Capacitor, nothing special.

  35. Bob

    The tracks showing JPL in morse code? As an ex-Navy Radioman, I think someone’s imagination is being displayed.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar