World Bulletin / News Desk
The Mars rover Curiosity was due to wrap up an exhaustive, weeks-long instrument check on Thursday, clearing the way for its first lengthy drive to determine whether the Red Planet has ever been hospitable to life, NASA officials said.
The six-wheeled, nuclear-powered rover landed five weeks ago inside a giant impact basin called Gale Crater, near the Martian equator, to conduct NASA's first astrobiology mission since the 1970s-era Viking probes.
For its final equipment check, Curiosity will maneuver its robot arm so its close-up camera touches the tray where processed rock and soil samples will be analyzed.
The rover, equipped with an array of the most elaborate laboratory instruments ever sent to a distant world, also has a bit of sightseeing on its agenda. Scientists want to obtain video footage of the Martian moon Phobos passing by the sun.
Starting Friday evening, the plan is to "drive, drive, drive" until scientists find a suitable rock for the rover's first robotic "hands-on" analysis, mission manager Jennifer Trosper told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.
It will stop when scientists find suitable soil to scoop up and run through Curiosity's onboard chemistry lab.
All the while, the rover will be heading toward a site scientists have labeled "Glenelg," where three different types of rock intersect. Glenelg, which lies about 1,312 feet (400 meters) away from Curiosity's current position, was named by mission geologists after a rock formation in northern Canada.
The overall purpose of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Lab mission is to search for places where microbial organisms could have evolved and been preserved. In addition to ferreting out the chemical and geologic footprints of water, Curiosity will hunt for organic compounds and other ingredients believed to be necessary for life.
Curiosity, which is designed to last two years, will venture about 4.3 miles (7 km) from its landing site to climb a 3-mile-high mound of layered rock rising from the floor of Gale Crater. Dubbed Mount Sharp, it is believed to be the remains of sediment that once filled the 96-mile wide (154-meter) basin.
The rover has racked up 358 feet (109 meters) on its odometer during test drives. Before setting out for Mount Sharp, scientists expect to drive Curiosity about 131 feet (40 meters) a day during its planned trek to Glenelg, with several stops for science observations.
Ghana is currently hosting a two-day Sub-Saharan Africa Solar Conference organized by independent business media company Magenta Global.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday he would continue and expand the NYPD Twitter campaign a day after it backfired, triggering an outpouring of negative images
Deals on connections that happen before they reach the user, known as interconnection agreements, are outside of their scope.
Rousseff spoke at a global conference that she convened on how to govern a safer, less U.S.-centered Internet after revelations that she and other world leaders had been spied upon by the NSA
The arrests came as Cambodia prepares its first Cyber Crime law, a draft of which has been criticised as contains measures meant to silence criticism of government.
City-killer asteroids are forecast to strike about once every 100 years, but the prediction is not based on hard evidence.
The two-day Net Mundial conference in Sao Paulo will discuss cyber security and how to safeguard privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet, as well as the shape of a future international body
Though the overall number of spying incidents studied tripled to 511 from total in the 2013 Verizon report, most of that increase is due to the addition of new data sources
There were no reports of damage but the ball of fire raised eyebrows after a meteorite crashed to Earth near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk
NASA officials had planned to crash the spacecraft into the moon, after it transmitted its final batch of data.
The discovery is the closest scientists have come so far to finding a true Earth twin
An ambitious project in Turkey's south could see a pioneering clean energy project.
Depending on local weather conditions, the eclipse was visible across a swath of the United States
Google and Facebook have been competing in innovative ways to increase internet access globally and tap into previously untouched markets.
A 14-year-old Dutch girl who sent a terror threat to American Airlines as a Twitter “joke” has been arrested by police in Rotterdam