Curiosity has tested a new driving mode -- backwards -- and achieved their longest single-day drive in three months. And they've committed to driving to the spot formerly known as "KMS-9," marking that commitment by giving it a name, "Kimberley." My route maps show you why Curiosity's views will be shifting, and Ken Herkenhoff's blog posts explain the daily activities.
After more than two months of very slow driving due to concern about the wheels and time spent choosing whether to enter "Dingo Gap" or not, Curiosity has safely crossed the dune and resumed longer drives, achieving 75 meters and crossing the 5-kilometer mark on sol 540.
While continuing to perform regular wheel health assessments, Curiosity took a sharp right turn and headed for Dingo Gap. On sol 533, they performed a "toe dip" that parked the rover atop the dune with a good view down into the valley.
At long last, on sol 526, Curiosity imaged the part of the weather instrument that was damaged during landing, but no obvious damage is visible, to me anyway. On sol 527 they drove even closer to Dingo Gap, with plans to drive onto the dune in the sol 528 drive.
You thought you were rid of us...but we're back! Following the spectacular and, quite frankly unprecedented, success of the Comet ISON Observing Campaign, we are launching a similar venture for another unique cometary encounter that's happening this year. In October 2014, comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will pass extremely close to Mars.
Over the last few days, Curiosity made steady driving progress to the southwest. For several of those days, an intriguing feature has appeared on the horizon in her images. UPDATE: The Curiosity team has now decided to drive the rover toward the feature, which is now named "Dingo Gap."
In the last month, Curiosity put 222 meters on the odometer in 12 short drives, while regularly assessing the wheels for damage. The rover performed touch-and-go analyses of rocks including Oneida and Kodak, and also took some ChemCam RMI mosaics of rocks near the base of Mount Sharp.