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Mars rover Curiosity targets unusual rock: NASA

(Xinhua)

08:33, September 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-size rock that will be the first for the rover's arm to examine, U.S. space agency NASA announced Wednesday.

Curiosity is about eight feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from Curiosity's landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg.

In the coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Both the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument will be used for identifying elements in the rock, NASA said. This will allow cross-checking of the two instruments.

The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic." Jacob Matijevic, who passed away on Aug. 20 at the age of 64, was the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the project's Curiosity rover, and was also a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity.

Curiosity now has driven six days in a row. Daily distances range from 72 feet to 121 feet (22 meters to 37 meters).

Curiosity, loaded with the most-sophisticated instruments ever used to explore another world, touched down on the Red Planet on Aug. 6. During the next two years, it will use its 10 instruments to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks about possible past life.
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