WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- After driving more than a football field's length since landing, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is spending several days preparing for full use of the tools on its arm, U.S. space agency NASA announced Thursday.
Curiosity extended its robotic arm Wednesday in the first of 6-10 consecutive days of planned activities to test the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm and the tools it manipulates, NASA said.
The work at the current location will prepare Curiosity and the team for using the arm to place two of the science instruments onto rock and soil targets. In addition, the activities represent the first steps in preparing to scoop soil, drill into rocks, process collected samples and deliver samples into analytical instruments.
Checkouts in the next several days will include using the turret's Mars Hand Lens Imager to observe its calibration target and the Canadian-built Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer to read what chemical elements are present in the instrument's calibration target.
Since the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft placed Curiosity inside Mars' Gale Crater on Aug. 6, the rover has driven a total of 358 feet (109 meters). The drives have brought it about one-fourth of the way from the landing site, named Bradbury Landing, to a location selected as the mission's first major science destination, Glenelg.
After the arm characterization activities at the current site, Curiosity will proceed for a few weeks eastward toward Glenelg. The science team selected that area as likely to offer a good target for Curiosity's first analysis of powder collected by drilling into a rock.
Curiosity is one month into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.