Sol 1: Rover wakes up for health checks on Mars

What a view … An image taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover showing Mars’ Mount Sharp in the distance. Touchdown … In this image, NASA’s Curiosity rover and its parachute, left, descend to the Martian surface.

In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars.

Isn’t she lovely … Mars, as pictured by the Hubble telescope in 2003.

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Curiosity has woken for its first day on a foreign planet. On the cool and crisp surface of Mars, the NASA rover began its first solar day, Sol 1, about 9.45am Mars time (10.45am AEST).

“What’s really exciting is the rover is in this new place and is going to teach us about this new landing site,” Jennifer Trosper, a mission manager with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said.

The rover’s day one tasks include instrument “health checks” and communications tests with two of the rover’s antennae. “We want to make sure we have as many communications links as possible,” Ms Trosper said.

The rover communicates with Earth by relaying data through the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters, but it also has the capacity to listen and talk directly to Earth.

This morning NASA will send a command into the rover’s low-gain antenna, an “omni-directional” antenna that will be used primarily for receiving signals. “That command is going to start the activities for the day,” Ms Trosper said.

One of those activities will be deploying the high-gain antenna, which will be used to receive commands for the mission team back on Earth.

As Earth rises, the high-gain antenna will track the Earth from about 11.45am local Mars time for about 75 minutes.

“If that all goes well then we will have confirmed all our communications links work perfectly and that would be fantastic,” she said.

“That’s one of the main engineering objectives that we’re trying out on the first few Sols.”

After that, Curiosity will conduct checks on two of its 10 scientific instruments including the RAD, which measured high-energy radiation during the spacecraft’s flight, but was turned off during descent and REMS, the rover’s Martian weather station.

The rover has already used its descent imager, MARDI.

Curiosity’s robotic arm remains stowed from descent and landing.

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