The rover, which can receive software updates from Earth, also has a robotic arm, which is designed to use various tools to dig for rock and soil samples, as well as to scoop up the samples and deposit them in onboard scientific instruments.
"It's about the science. That's why we do this," said Kipp. "But the expertise that we've developed on how to build, develop, test and run a mission like this is really a national treasure.... Hopefully we'll have following missions where we can use what we're learning here."
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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