NASA's Mars rover makes first test drive

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Wednesday made its first test drive, leaving wheel tracks near its landing spot – now dubbed "Bradbury Landing" in honor of late science fiction author Ray Bradbury.

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This image released by NASA shows tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive on Mars, August 22, 2012 NASA/JPL-Caltech


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NASA's Mars rover makes first test drive

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Wednesday made its first test drive, leaving wheel tracks near its landing spot – now dubbed "Bradbury Landing" in honor of late science fiction author Ray Bradbury.

"Curiosity today had its first successful drive on Mars. We have a fully functioning mobility system on our rover," said Matt Haverly, the lead rover planner at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The $2.5 billion craft – which landed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet on August 6 – drove about four meters forward, before turning right at a 90 degree angle and moving backwards a few meters.

"This placed the rover roughly 6 meters from the spot where it landed 16 days ago," NASA, the US space agency, said in a statement.

An image taken by the rover clearly shows its wheel tracks on Martian soil. More tests will be conducted before Curiosity takes off on its full mission to search for signs of life on the Red Planet.

"We are 16 days into a two-year mission," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at the JPL.

"We haven't exercised the sample gathering capability, which is a key, key, key element of the rover's science mission," Theisinger added.

"So, as good as it's gone, and as wonderful as it is, we still only checked off about two of the level-one requirement boxes: we launched on time, landed on Mars, and we have a long way to go before this mission reaches its full potential."

NASA said it had approved the Curiosity team's proposal to rename the touchdown site in tribute to Bradbury, the author of "The Martian Chronicles" and "Fahrenheit 451" who would have turned 92 on Wednesday. He died in June.

"In his honor, we declared the place that Curiosity touched down to be forever known as 'Bradbury Landing,'" said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

"Today would have been Ray Bradbury's 92nd birthday, but he already reached immortality with the hundreds of short stories he's written and nearly 50 books. His books have truly inspired us," Meyer said.

"'The Martian Chronicles' have inspired Curiosity and opened our minds to the possibility of life on Mars."

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures but they hope to use it to analyze soil and rocks for signs the building blocks of life are present and may have supported life in the past.

The project also aims to study the Martian environment to prepare for a possible human mission there in the coming years. US President Barack Obama has vowed to send humans to the planet by 2030.  AFP

tracks – marks or lines of marks showing the direction that something has moved ร่องรอย
curiosity – a strong desire to know about something ความอยากรู้
rover – a small vehicle used by astronauts for travelling on the surface of a planet
spot – the particular place where someone or something is  ที่, สถานที่
dubbed – called; given a name ถูกเรียก ตั้งฉายา
late – dead ที่ล่วงลับไปแล้ว
fiction – a type of literature that describes imaginary people and events, not real ones บันเทิงคดี, นวนิยาย, เรื่องเล่า
functioning – able to be used ใช้การได้
mobility – the ability to move or travel around easily การเคลื่อนที่ได้ง่าย, การเคลื่อนไหว
propulsion – the force that moves or pushes something forward แรงขับเคลื่อน
laboratory – a room or building used for scientific research, experiments, testing, etc  ห้องปฏิบัติการ, ห้องทดลอง
craft – a boat or ship เรือ,ยาน
crater – a large hole in the ground caused by the explosion of a bomb, by something large hitting it, or by a collapse because of an empty space underneath the ground  แอ่ง, หลุม
angle – the shape, measured in degrees, that is made where two surfaces or objects meet; the direction from which something comes, or the direction from which you look at something, especially when it is not directly in front of you มุม
roughly – approximately but not exactly  โดยประมาณ, อย่างคร่าวๆ
soil – the substance on the surface of the Earth or other planets or moons ดิน
conduct – to do something in an organised way; to carry out — ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
mission – an important piece of work that a person or a group of people has been given to do ภาระกิจ หน้าที่
sign – a piece of evidence that something is happening or that something exists  ร่องรอย
exercise – to use ใช้
sample – a small amount of a substance that is used for scientific or medical tests ตัวอย่างทดลอง
gathering – the process of collecting something การรวบรวม
capability – the ability to do something ความสามารถ
key – the most important thing สิ่งที่สำคัญที่สุด
check off boxes – (of a list of things) to check off the things that you have finished or done successfully
launched – sent something out, such as a rocket into space ปล่อย
potential – what is possible ความเป็นไปได้
approve – to give official permission อนุมัต
proposal – a plan or suggestion for a group to consider ข้อเสนอ
touchdown – (of a plane or other aircraft) making contact with the ground as it lands การนำลง
site – a place where something is located  สถานที่
tribute – something that you do, say, or build to show that you respect and admire someone or something การแสดงความเคารพ ยกย่องต่อ
chronicle – a written record of events in the order in which they happened   บันทึกเหตุการณ์, บันทึกเรื่องราวมตามลำดับเวลา
declare – to announce officially ประกาศ
forever – for all time in the future, or for as long as you can imagine ตลอดไป
immortality – the state of living or lasting forever  ความเป็นอมตะ, ความนิรันดร์, ความไม่ตาย
inspire – to give people a particular feeling or a desire to do somethng จุดประกาย
alien – a creature from another world คนต่างด้าว
creature – anything that lives except plants  สิ่งมีชีวิต (คน, สัตว์)
building blocks – parts that are joined together in order to make a large thing exist ตัวต่อ
environment – a place, including all the physical conditions that affect it สภาพแวดล้อม, สิ่งแวดล้อม
vow – to make a formal and serious promise to do something สาบาน, ปฏิญาณ

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