Assuming that communications are established, the first order of business will be to verify the health of the small nuclear battery that will provide power for the rover. Curiosity carries ten pounds of plutonium-238 dioxide as a heat source, which is then used to produce the onboard electricity needed to move the rover, operate the instruments, and keep the frigid nighttime cold at bay.
Curiosity Unpacks for a Two-Year Visit
If all is well, what follows will be a highly choreographed unpacking of the rover.
First the mast goes up, with its suite of cameras. Weather and radiation monitoring instruments are turned on, as well as the laser-camera combination that can zap rocks up to 23 feet [7 meters] away and take readings of the "excited" gases released in the process.
By "sol 10" ("day 10"—each Martian solar day, known as a sol, is 24.66 hours long), all ten instruments should have been started up to see if they're working, and Curiosity is scheduled to take its first tentative steps—kind of like shaking one's legs to get rid of the pins and needles after a long journey.
Only around sol 30 will the seven-foot [two-meter] robotic arm be tested, grabbing Martian soil for the first time to crush and deliver to the two rover mini-laboratories—Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin). (Get the basics on the Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover.)
All the while, scientists will be determining exactly where Curiosity is in relation to both the walls of the 80-mile-diameter [130-kilometer-diameter] Gale Crater and the three-mile-high [five-kilometer-high] Mount Sharp in the middle of its huge depression.
Gradually, the science team will take more control of the mission and address the first big questions: Where should Curiosity be headed? And then, which rocks should be sampled? Where does the soil look especially interesting and worthy of a full and time-consuming examination?
More at the link.