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Mars rover Curiosity: Stunning panorama from Red Planet

The Mars rover Curiosity sent home panorama images of its own tracks after taking its first few "baby steps" since landing on the Red Planet.

The craft moved about 6 meters from its initial landing spot during the test drive -- first forward about 4½ meters, then 120 degrees in place and finally back 2½ meters. As it moved forward, its boxy head turned from side to side, taking shots of its wheels in the process.

Visible in the panorama, in addition to the rover's tracks, are a 3.5-inch rock where the drive began, marks left by the rover's descent during landing and the lower slopes of Mount Sharp.

PANORAMA: Tire tracks on Mars | PHOTOS: Mars rover mission

Click for panoramaWithin several days, the rover is set to take off for its first potential drill target, Glenelg, where three types of terrain meet. 

Controllers aren’t sure how long the drive may take, as they may stop to check out interesting things along the way, said deputy project scientist Joy Crisp. For example, the team plans to make a pit stop if it finds soil fine enough to practice using its scooping tool.

NASA officials also announced that the touchdown spot has been officially named "Bradbury Landing," in honor of the renowned science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died earlier this year. He would have been 92 on Wednesday.


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Photo: Tracks made by Curiosity's tires during its first test drive as seen by Navcam. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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