First drive of the NASA rover on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has taken a 16-minute drive, its first since reaching the Red Planet to search for habitats that could have supported microbial life.

"Curiosity today had its first successful drive on Mars. We have a fully functioning mobility system on our rover," Matt Haverly, the lead rover planner at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said on Wednesday.

The $2.5bn, two-year mission, NASA's first astrobiology initiative since the 1970s-era Viking probes, kicked off on August 6, with a risky, but successful landing at a site NASA has named "Bradbury Landing", a nod to the late science fiction author and space aficionado Ray Bradbury.

Aside from a quick steering test earlier in the week, the one-tonne rover had stood firmly on its six wheels since touching down inside an ancient impact basin called Gale Crater, located in the planet's southern hemisphere near the equator.

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