Ken’s Sol 1352 Update: Scouting a path

25 May 2016 – We’d like to keep driving toward the southwest, but can’t see all of the terrain ahead from our current location. So the Sol 1352 plan includes a short drive to give us a better view. Before the rover moves, Mastcam will acquire a large stereo mosaic of the “Breckhorn” ridge in front of the vehicle and extend the left Mastcam mosaic of the “Fracture Town” area to the west. ChemCam and Mastcam will also observe a rock called “Tsongoari.” After the drive, images are planned that will hopefully allow the tactical team to find a safe path ahead. It was an easy day for me as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead today, with only an end-of-drive MAHLI image and a MARDI twilight image.

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1351 Update: Ridge Chemistry

24 May 2016 – MSL is in a good position for contact science on the small ridge in front of the rover, so the Sol 1351 operations team decided to stay here and acquire chemical data. First, CheMin will return the results of the latest analysis of the Lubango drill sample while ChemCam observes rock targets dubbed “Nauaspoort,” “Tschudi” and “Kazungula.” The Right Mastcam will image Kazungula and Navcam will search for clouds, then the rover will take a short nap before acquiring a Mastcam mosaic of an outcrop at the western edge of the Naukluft Plateau. Later in the afternoon, MAHLI images of bedrock near the small ridge (“Groendraai”) and Nauaspoort (on the ridge) are planned. The APXS will be placed on Groendraai for an evening integration, then on Nauaspoort for a longer, overnight integration. It’s been much easier for me as SOWG Chair today, as we have all the data we need for planning!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1350 Update: Data Processing Delay

23 May 2016 – I’m SOWG Chair again today, and started browsing the latest data from MSL early this morning. To my dismay, the post-drive images that we expected to receive in time for planning today were not available! It turned out that the data were received on Earth, but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter operations team had some problems processing and transferring it to us. We waited as long as we could for the data needed to plan contact science or mobility activities, then decided that we should plan Sol 1350 without them because planning time is limited by the early uplink window–we have to have the plan ready to send to the rover by this evening. Fortunately, the images needed to pick remote sensing targets were processed in time to point ChemCam and Mastcam at the outcrop in front of the rover. Planning targeted remote sensing is much easier than planning contact science or mobility, so the Sol 1350 plan includes ChemCam/Mastcam observations of “Oamites,” “Aruab” and “Hosabes” as well as Mastcam images of the Sun and distant crater rim and Navcam searches for clouds and dust devils. Mastcam will also acquire calibration data at various times of day (temperatures), and CheMin will perform another analysis of the Lubango drill sample.

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ryan’s Sol 1348-1349 Update: A Smoother Route

20 May 2016 -Our drive on Sol 1346 was successful and brought us to a location with a view of the rugged ridges of the area we’ve been calling “Fracture Town”. In fact, from our current location, we decided that those ridges may be a bit too rough for comfort, so we are planning a slight change in course that will take us a bit south of our original path. The new path should be smoother and will also give us a better view of the contact between the Stimson and Murray units.

But before we set off on this revised path, we have some science to do at our current location! On Sol 1348, ChemCam has observations on the targets “Meob”, “Nomeib”, and “Munutum”. Mastcam will take documentation images of these targets as well as the one observed by ChemCam using AEGIS after our last drive. Mastcam will also observe the targets “Hudoab”, “Witputz”, “Sandamap”, plus a mosaic of Fracture Town. Once the remote sensing is done, we will brush off the target Meob, taking MAHLI images before and after. MAHLI will also take some images of the target Nomeib. That will be followed by a quick APXS observation of Nomeib and an overnight observation on Meob.

On Sol 1349 we have some more targeted science! ChemCam will observe targets “Annental” and “Nainais”, and in addition to documentation images of those targets, Mastcam will also do a multispectral observation of Meob. Navcam has an atmospheric observation as well. After that, the rover will drive and do standard post-drive imaging, plus a ChemCam AEGIS observation and a MARDI image of the ground beneath us.

Even though that is only two sols, it will take us through the weekend, since Saturday is a “soliday” which allows our times to synch back up with Mars time.

Ryan Anderson is a planetary scientist and developer at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ryan’s Sol 1346-1347 Update: Onward to Fracture Town

18 May 2016 -We are coming up on the edge of Naukluft plateau (again!). The plan for Sol 1346 starts off with ChemCam observations of the targets “Etusis” and “Etiro”, to continue measuring the variations in silica abundance around large fractures. Mastcam has a context image of these two targets, plus a mosaic looking ahead to an area we’ve been calling “Fracture Town”. After that, the rover will drive and do standard post-drive imaging, plus CheMin will do another analysis of the Okoruso sample.

On Sol 1347, the rover has a number of atmospheric observations, plus a ChemCam observation using the AEGIS software to target a nice patch of bedrock automatically. This is a new capability, and it’s really nice to be able to get some data after we drive without having Earth in the loop!

Ryan Anderson is a planetary scientist and developer at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1344-1345 Update: Touch and go

16 May 2016 – The drive planned last weekend completed successfully, moving MSL less than 6 meters into position for contact science on the rocks broken by the rover wheels. Planning is restricted this week, so we are planning 2 sols’ worth of activities. The first sol (1344) includes a “touch and go” that requires extra Rover Planner staffing, as both arm activities and a drive are planned. It’s great to be able to do so much in one plan, but we had to cram a lot of stuff into Sol 1344 because the drive has to be completed before the afternoon MRO communications relay to allow another drive to be planned on Wednesday. So we had to decide which scientific observations were most important and work to fit them into the plan. I helped select a target for a ChemCam observation of “Impalila,” one of the freshly-exposed rock surfaces, and was glad to see that it made it into the plan. Mastcam will acquire a multispectral observation of the broken rocks before MAHLI takes pictures of “Stampriet,” Impalila, “Narubis,” and “Swartmodder.” As I mentioned in my previous blog, it’s difficult to get MAHLI close to these targets, so the camera will be placed no closer than 5 cm from any of the targets; we can’t get any closer than 25 cm to Swartmodder. After MAHLI imaging is completed and the arm stowed, the rover will drive toward the west, hopefully getting back to the Sol 1311 location, where the rover was before we decided to return to the Lubango area.

Sol 1345 observations cannot be targeted because they will be taken after the drive, so ChemCam and Mastcam will perform routine sky measurements. That’s it!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ken’s Sol 1341-1343 Update: A Change of Plans

13 May 2016 – The MSL team was originally planning a long drive this weekend, but there was enough interest in the fresh rock surfaces exposed near the rover that we decided to investigate them instead. Before we could decide whether to “bump” to the rocks that were broken when the rover drove over them, we had to make sure they could be well imaged by MAHLI. Taking MAHLI images of nearly vertical faces is difficult, because the turret at the end of the arm must be placed close to the ground. While the Strategic Rover Planner worked to find ways to get MAHLI close to the fresh surfaces, we planned pre-drive remote sensing and arm activities: On Sol 1341, ChemCam will observe its calibration target, a bedrock target named “Kobos 3,” and the wall of the Okoruso drill hole. Mastcam will then provide context for the ChemCam observations and take stereo mosaics of “Naob” and other bedrock near the rover. Later that afternoon, the DRT will be used to brush dust off a brighter layer in the bedrock, with MAHLI images taken before and after the brushing. We also planned close-up MAHLI images on a nearby bedrock target dubbed “Mariquita” and a lower-resolution MAHLI mosaic of the area including Mariquita. All of this MAHLI work made for a very busy day for me as MAHLI uplink lead!

APXS will measure the chemistry of the brush spot overnight, before another busy sol begins. The arm will be stowed to allow a Mastcam multispectral observation of the brush spot before the rover bumps over to the broken rocks. During the drive, DAN will actively measure the subsurface hydrogen content by turning on its neutron generator. After acquiring post-drive images, the rover will take a nap before CheMin performs another overnight analysis of the Okoruso drill sample. Early on the morning of Sol 1343, Navcam will search for clouds and dust devils, and Mastcam will measure the optical thickness of dust in the atmosphere. Later that sol, ChemCam will use the newly-validated AEGIS software to acquire LIBS measurements of an autonomously-selected target. Of course, we are hoping that the software continues to work well!

Ken Herkenhoff is a ChemCam RMI specialist. An archive of Ken’s past updates can be read at http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news/.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Ryan’s Sol 1339-1340 Update: Two Mars Years!

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11 May 2016 -Happy birthday, Curiosity! As of today, the rover has been on the surface of Mars for two Mars years (almost four Earth years)! To celebrate, we have a new press release discussing our ongoing environmental measurements. These sorts of systematic measurements become more useful the longer the rover is on the surface to collect them, because we can compare how conditions change from year to year.

Of course, we had other ways to celebrate too. Our French colleagues at CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales) made a Mars-themed cake, complete with a little rover exploring a delicious-looking cocoa-dusted martian surface!

The mission doesn’t stop for us to eat cake though. Today we planned Sols 1339 and 1340, continuing our drill campaign at the target “Okoruso”. On Sol 1339, MAHLI will observe a pile of drill tailings that was dumped without being sieved. CheMin will complete the analysis from the Sol 1338 plan, and APXS will make an overnight measurement of the dump pile. On Sol 1340, we have a targeted science block with ChemCam passive and active observations of the dump pile, and active observations of the targets “Kobos 2”, “Stampriet”, and “Swartmodder”. Mastcam will document those targets, and then Mastcam and Navcam will make some atmospheric dust observations.

Here’s to many more martian birthdays for our rover! We still have a long way to go to catch up with Opportunity’s >6.5 Mars years of activity!

Ryan Anderson is a planetary scientist and developer at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the ChemCam team on MSL.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Lauren’s Sol 1337-1338 Update: Curiosity’s Two-day arm Challenge, Followed by a Selfie

09 May 2016 – Today’s two-sol plan is going to be quite an arm workout for Curiosity. Over the weekend, Curiosity transferred and sieved the “Okoruso” drill sample, and analyzed it with CheMin. That means that today’s plan is focused on arm activities and imaging the drill location. The plan starts by dumping the pre-sieved drill sample. Then we’ll use Mastcam to image the dump pile and drill site. Next, we’ll target the drill hole with ChemCam, and we’ll also characterize a nearby bedrock target named “Ubib,” followed by a MAHLI image of the dump pile. Overnight, it’s time for another arm workout – this time focused on MAHLI nighttime imaging of the drill hole and “Ubib” under different illumination conditions. On the first sol, that’s already several hours of arm activities, while holding a 66 pound (30 kg) turret at the end. After such an intense workout, what’s next? Time for a selfie. On the second sol Curiosity will take a MAHLI self portrait to document the drill site. But unlike most selfies, Curiosity’s selfie requires 60 different images, and will take nearly an hour to acquire. Finally, we’ll give the arm a break, and Curiosity will take several ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the drill tailings in the afternoon. Talk about a good workout (for a lot of great science).

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

Lauren’s Sol 1334-1336 Update: Successful Drilling at Okoruso

06 May 2016 – Meet the latest drill hole on Mars: “Okoruso,” created on Sol 1332, seen in the above MAHLI image. Drilling activities went well on Sol 1332, so the weekend plan is focused on sieving the sample and dropping it off to CheMin for analysis. The plan starts with a short science block to acquire a ChemCam RMI image of the drill hole, and Mastcam stereo imaging of the pre-sieve dump location. Then the “Okoruso” drill sample will be transferred and sieved and delivered to CheMin for analysis overnight. The second sol includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Natas” and “Langental” to investigate variations in chemistry through the stratigraphy. The third sol has an early morning science block full of ChemCam, Navcam, and Mastcam observations to monitor the composition and opacity of the, atmosphere and search for clouds. In the afternoon we’ll use ChemCam to study the drill tailings and a freshly broken rock, followed by some repeated atmospheric observations.

Lauren Edgar is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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