With most of its ground control team taking time off this week, Curiosity was loaded up with operating instructions for 11 days, NASA said in a video update posted on its website.
Scientists will be reviewing Curiosity’s surveys and science data to look for a suitable rock to test the rover’s drill for the first time.
Curiosity landed inside an ancient crater near the planet’s equator on Aug. 6 for a two-year mission to determine if Mars has or ever had the ingredients and environments to support and preserve microbial life.
The extended auto-pilot is a good test for a two-week period in April when the sun is between Earth and Mars, blocking radio contact between ground controllers and the rover, said Colette Lohr, a rover communications lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
At “Grandma’s House,” which is within the shallow depression known as “Yellowknife Bay,” Curiosity is due to acquire a 360-degree panorama.