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Curiosity wiggles wheels to prepare for first drive on Mars

(Xinhua)

14:01, August 22, 2012

The picture shows the rear right wheel of NASA's Curiosity. Engineers wiggled the wheels as a test of the rover's steering and anticipate embarking on Curiosity's first drive in the next couple of days. This image was taken by one of Curiosity's Navigation cameras on Aug. 21. (Photo/NASA)

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Curiosity rover has wiggled its four corner wheels to prepare for its first drive on Mars, NASA' s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California announced Tuesday.

JPL said the six-wheeled rover wiggled its four corner wheels side to side for the first time on Mars on Tuesday as a test of the steering actuators on those wheels. This was critical preparation for Curiosity's first drive on Mars.

"Late tonight, we plan to send Curiosity the commands for doing our first drive tomorrow," said Curiosity Mission Manager Michael Watkins of JPL.

"We wanted to test the steering, because otherwise we would be driving in whatever direction we landed in," Watkins explained during a teleconference Tuesday.

Watkins said the commands will be sent up Tuesday night for a drive of just a few yards (meters), incorporating a turn to the right and a backing-up maneuver. That initial movement should occur "in the middle of the night our time" and last about a half-hour, he said.

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