Mars rover Curiosity has approached a football-size rock and will soon try to determine its elemental composition and take close-up photographs, NASA reported.
The rock, some 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rover, will be the first for Curiosity's arm to examine.
The rock’s composition will be determined with the help of the arm-mounted Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the mast-mounted, laser-zapping Chemistry and Camera Instrument.
The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic" in honor of Jacob Matijevic, the surface operations systems chief engineer for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the project's Curiosity rover, and a leading engineer for all of the previous NASA Mars rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, who died in August at age 64.
The rover has been driving for six days. Distances Curiosity covers daily range from 72 feet (22m) to 121 ft (37m).
During the rover's two-year mission, researchers will use the its ten science tools to assess if the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever had environmental conditions suitable for microbial life, NASA said.