Mars rover test-drive in California dunes

Using California sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, Mars Science Laboratory team members are practicing how to drive the car-sized Curiosity rover when it arrives on the red planet in August.

Mobility tests were conducted Thursday using a rover model at Dumont Dunes. The vehicle was stripped down so that it weighs about the same on Earth as Curiosity will weigh in the lesser gravity of Mars.

Information collected in these tests on windward and downwind portions of dunes will be used by the rover team in making decisions about driving Curiosity on dunes near a mountain in the center of Gale Crater on Mars.

Curiosity's mobility-test rover is called Scarecrow.

Photo credit: Gene Blevins/LA Daily News

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