Updated: 18/08/12 : 08:44:43Printable Version
US space agency Nasa's Curiosity rover is to carry out its first laser target practice by zapping a Martian rock.
Scientists have chosen a rock 10 feet away from the six-wheeled explorer's landing site, where it will flex its robotic arm and take aim.
It is one of 10 tools Curiosity will use to break rocks and scoop up soil, exploring whether the planet's environment might once have supported life in the form of microscopic organisms.
There are also plans for the Mars rover to make a wide detour to explore a "cool" geographical hot spot on the Red Planet, dubbed Glenelg.
Scientists said they chose the name Glenelg because it is a palindrome - a word read the same way backward and forward - and the rover will need to travel back in the same direction to head toward Mount Sharp.
The Glenelg trek will be Curiosity's first "moderate duration drive target," Mars Science Laboratory project scientist John Grotzinger told reporters.
Explaining the decision to risk travelling off the planned route, he said: "It looks cool."
The mission is expected to take between three weeks and two months.
Curiosity will stay at the spot for around a month before driving to Mount Sharp - a tall mound of layered rock - which may contain traces of water.
It stands at the centre of the Gale Crater and several miles from where the $2.5bn rover touched down on August 6.