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Successful first mission for Mars rover Curiosity

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has successfully embarked on its first drive since reaching the Red Planet. The rover is on a quest to discover whether Mars could have ever supported life.

Curiosity took to the road for 16 minutes on Wednesday, driving a total of 15 feet (4.5 meters) before turning right at a 90 degree angle and moving backwards a few meters.

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

It was the first time the $2.5-billion (1.99-billion-euro) craft had moved from its landing spot since arriving on Mars on August 6. The area has since been dubbed the "Bradbury Landing" in honor of the late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.

Watch video 00:58

'Curiosity' aces its first big test on Mars

Its first test drive paves the way for the rover to embark on its first round of analysis of rock blasted clean by the rover's landing system engine.

The six-wheeled vehicle will then begin a more perilous trek to the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain of layered rock three kilometers high and the rover's primary target. The seven-kilometer journey is expected to take several months.

The vehicle's two-year mission is to find out more about whether or not the planet could have harbored microbial life. Curiosity is described as the most advanced robotic science lab to be sent to another planet.

ccp/slk (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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