13/08/2012 04:33 BST | Updated 12/10/2012 06:12 BST

Mars Rover Curiosity Has A 'Brain Transplant' Ahead Of First Working Week

Nasa's Curiosity rover had a busy first weekend on Mars: it had a brain transplant.

The £1.6bn, one-tonne vehicle, which landed on Mars last in what Nasa called its 'hardest ever' mission, had its software upgraded to that it can drive and use its robotic arm.

The new software was uploaded to the rover during its flight from Earth, and was installed over three days from 10 August to 13 August.

The original software was designed mainly to help land the rover. The new software includes code to help it check for obstacles on its own, to drive on safe paths and to use different tools on the end of its robotic arm.

Meanwhile Nasa is analysing the first photographs of the Mars surface which the rover has already sent back. Researchers are deciding which features to investigate and the precise schedule of the mission.

"We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission," said Ben Cichy of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"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 six-wheeled rover Curiosity was lowered to the Martian surface on three nylon tethers suspended from a hovering "sky crane" firing retro rockets.

For the next 97 weeks - the length of one Martian year - Curiosity will explore a large Martian crater that billions of years ago may have been filled with water.

Nasa said the rover was continuing to perform "very well" and had awoken from its "beauty sleep... feeling healthy and refreshed".