The next Mars rover, dubbed Curiosity, is due to launch next fall and land on the red planet in August of 2012. But just today, it took its very first steps in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The rover, which is much bigger than I was expecting it to be, rolled a few feet surrounded by engineers and technicians in "bunny suits" on the clean room floor. All went according to plan, and everything is still on track for next fall's launch.

As previously reported, Curiosity is going to be headed up to Mars equipped with a pretty sweet 3D camera thanks to James Cameron, which should send back some of the most striking images of the planet's surface ever captured. Godspeed, Curiosity. [Physorg]