Over the past few days, NASA scientists have put the robotic arm of the Curiosity rover through a series of tests as they prepare the mobile laboratory for an exploratory mission to a nearby site where three distinct geological formations come together.
Two members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project provided an update on Curiosity's progress during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Cmte. The hearing, chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), focused on NASA's exploration portfolio, including human and robotic missions.
Later, a panel of experts testified on NASA's implementation of the Mars exploration initiatives contained in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.
Some members of Congress are concerned that the Obama administration is backing away from a human mission to Mars. They point to significant cuts to the Mars Exploration Program in the President's FY 2013 budget request.
Witnesses included: Fuk Li, director, Mars Exploration Directorate, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA; John Grotzinger, project scientist, Mars Science Laboratory, California Institute of Technology; Steven W. Squyres, professor of astronomy, Cornell University; Charles F. Kennel, chairman, Space Studies Board, The National Academies; and Jim Maser, president, Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne.