Ray Bradbury on Mars, and Curiosity Completes Tiny Test Drive

BY Jenny Marder  August 22, 2012 at 6:15 PM EDT

This 360-degree panorama shows evidence in the tire tracks of a successful first test drive for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech.

On Wednesday, the Mars rover Curiosity embarked on its first small journey. It plowed forward 15 feet — the length of a small moving truck — made a 120-degree turn and then reversed eight feet before coming to a halt 20 feet from its landing site.

That landing site, scientists announced today, has been named Bradbury Landing, after Ray Bradbury, author of more than 500 published works, including his first book, “The Martian Chronicles.” Bradbury died on June 6, 2012.

In this video posted on the NASA site today, Ray Bradbury jokes about getting Mars wrong in his book, and about the 9-year-old boys who are “always finding [him] out.” Plus, he reads a poem that he says sums up his love of space travel and science fiction. Just try to listen and not get a lump in your throat.

Since its joyful August 5 landing, Curiosity has already inspired a parody video and a Mars Lander Lego kit.

The spacecraft touched down onto the Mars surface on August 5 after a 354-million-mile journey from Earth, and has since been beaming back frequent photos.

During the test drive, the craft’s tires dug their first tracks into the martian soil. The image at the top of this post faces Mount Sharp, it’s ultimate destination.

Photo credit: This color-enhanced view of NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as the satellite flew overhead. Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.