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Mars rover Curiosity in autonomous drive toward science target

  |   Oct. 30, 2013 at 6:33 PM
PASADENA, Calif., Oct. 30 (UPI) -- NASA says its Mars rover finished a two-day autonomous drive Monday to a vantage point from where it will survey the next target to reach out and touch.

During autonomous drives, the Curiosity rover chooses a safe route to designated way-points by using its onboard computer to analyze stereo images it takes during pauses in the drive, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Wednesday.

The Sunday-to-Monday drive was the first time Curiosity ended an autonomous driving segment and then went on autonomously from that same point the next day, JPL scientists said.

The two driving sessions brought Curiosity within about 262 feet of a site dubbed "Cooperstown," an outcrop bearing candidate targets for examination with instruments on the rover's arm, they said.

"What interests us about this site is an intriguing outcrop of layered material visible in the orbital images," said Kevin Lewis of Princeton University, a participating scientist for the mission who has been a leader in planning the Cooperstown activities.

The team said it would use images taken from the vantage point reached Monday to decide what part of the Cooperstown outcrop to investigate with Curiosity's arm-mounted instruments.

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