|The target rock has been named in honour of a rover engineer, Jake Matijevic, who died in August|
The Curiosity rover is making good progress towards its first major science destination on Mars.The vehicle has now driven 289m (950ft) since its landing on the Red Planet some six weeks ago.
It has perhaps another 200m still left to cover to get to a location dubbed Glenelg, where researchers expect to find an interesting juxtaposition of three types of geological terrain.
But before it goes any further, the rover will study a dark rock.
Measuring about 25cm in height and 40cm at the base, it is not expected to have major science value.
Rather, the rock provides an opportunity for the robot to use three of its survey instruments in tandem for the first time.
The rock has been named "Jake Matijevic" in honour of a Curiosity engineer who tragically died shortly after the vehicle touched down in Mars' Gale Crater on 6 August (GMT).
The rover will zap the rock from a distance with its ChemCam laser and examine it up close with its Mahli "hand lens" and the X-ray spectrometer known as APXS. The latter two devices are held on the end of the rover's robotic arm; the laser is mounted on its mast.
The investigation will give a good idea of the atoms present in the Matijevic rock and its likely mineralogical composition - although the Curiosity science team fully expects to "discover" another ubiquitous lump of Martian basalt (a volcanic rock).