NASA's Curiosity rover will begin its first major drive across the Mars surface today and begin surveying rocks in order to understand if the planet was once habitable.
Scientists have taken the control from engineers today for the first time following instrument checks, software updates, and test drives on Curiosity's 2.1m long arm for some five-and-a-half weeks.
According to NASA Curiosity mission manager Jennifer Trosper, the rover performed well during all the tests, and expected to drive towards Glenelg, a location where three kinds of terrain intersect.
Curiosity rover reached the red planet's Gale Crater in August, and on its two-year mission it will examine the Martian environment, which will enable scientists to determine if the planet could ever sustain life.
Since its landing, the rover has crossed 109m of the Martian surface, with its last destination being Mount Sharp, which rises from the floor of the crater.
The rover may take days or even weeks to find the right rock, and is expected to cover no more than 40m a day.
Scientists will then study the data received from Mars and decide what they want to explore next.
Meanwhile, Phobos, the largest moon of Mars, is expected to cross the face of the Sun today and the team will try to capture the event.
Although previous Martian missions Spirit and Opportunity caught images of such transits, this is the first time that video footage of it will be sent back to Earth.
Image: An artist's impression of NASA's Curiosity rover, which is on its two-year mission to examine the Martian environment. Photo: courtesy of NASA.