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Nasa rover to laser Martian rock

Nasa's Mars rover Curiosity is preparing for its first laser target practice - zapping a Martian rock 10 feet away.

Since landing in an ancient crater on August 5, the car-size Curiosity has been getting a full health check.

Scientists said on Friday they had chosen a generic-looking rock near the landing site to aim the laser at and burn a small hole.

The laser is one of 10 tools Curiosity will use to study whether the environment was favourable for microbial life.

Next week engineers plan to command Curiosity to turn its wheels side to side and then take its first short drive that will involve rolling forward 10 feet, turning 90 degrees and then going in reverse.

After the check-ups are done, the rover will head 1,300 feet east to a spot where three different types of terrain converge in a drive that will take about a month.

By the year's end, it will start its trek towards a mountain rising from the crater floor.

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