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updated: 12/29/2012 1:00 PM

Road trip on tap for NASA's Mars rover in new year

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  • This NASA photo shows a color self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity. It is set to drive toward a Martian mountain in mid-February after drilling into a rock.

      This NASA photo shows a color self-portrait of the Mars rover Curiosity. It is set to drive toward a Martian mountain in mid-February after drilling into a rock.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's newest Mars rover is gearing up for a road trip. But first, it has to drill into a rock.

Curiosity's first priority in the new year is to test out its drill. Mission managers had wanted to get it done this year, but they ran out of time because other activities took longer than expected.

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The car-size rover landed in a crater near the Martian equator over the summer to great fanfare. Since then, it has been taking it slow.

Curiosity is expected to start the drive to a mountain in mid-February after drilling is complete. Scientists predict it'll take nine months to get there with stops along the way.

The rover is on a two-year mission to determine whether the landing site could have been favorable for life.

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