The Mars Rover Curiosity may have been able to perfectly execute a staggeringly complex descent and stick a near-impossible landing, but isn't exactly ready for the mission ahead of it, yet. First, it needs a good old fashioned software update.
The update, or "brain transplant" as NASA calls it, will take place in steps over the course of several days, just like when you boot up your computer. The goal is to outfit Curiosity with some software that's less about landing and more about getting around on the surface of an alien planet, specifically avoiding obstacles.
NASA's Ben Cichy, a chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission puts it this way:
"We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission. The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don't need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimised for surface operations."
The update should be complete by sometime on Tuesday, and then it's go time. After all, rovers gotta rove. [NASA]