Lauren’s Sol 785-786 Update: Comet Siding Spring

20 October 2014 – Over the weekend, a number of Mars spacecraft observed a rare encounter with comet Siding Spring. Curiosity successfully observed the comet with Mastcam, Navcam and ChemCam RMI. Today we’re planning two sols during which Curiosity will drive closer to the rock outcrop “Book Cliffs,” and perform some remote sensing. This is part of a bigger campaign to survey the Pahrump Hills. During the drive we will acquire a series of MARDI images to document the geology along the traverse. The plan also includes ChemCam observations of the targets “Ibex Pass,” “Hayden Peak,” and “Saddle Peak” with corresponding Mastcam images to characterize the local geology. After the drive we’ll acquire our standard post-drive imaging. The plan also includes several Navcam observations to monitor the atmosphere. I’ll be on duty as the Geology Science Theme Lead starting on Sol 787 so I’m getting up to speed on the current science plans and looking forward to exploring the Pahrump Hills!

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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 782-784 Update: Comet Observations

17 October 2014 – The experience I gained planning the MARDI drive “video” for Sol 780 helped me prepare for another MARDI video during the Sol 782 drive. I’m MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead again today, and got a good start on the video and post-drive MAHLI/MARDI observation planning. But concerns were raised about the safety of Sol 783 ChemCam observations of Comet Siding Spring after the Sol 782 drive, so the drive was deleted from the plan along with the associated MARDI and MAHLI imaging. While I was disappointed by this change of plans, I recognized the importance of the comet observations. Comet Siding Spring will be closer to Mars this weekend than any comet has approached Earth in historic times, and all the spacecraft at Mars will be observing this rare event. I look forward to seeing the results!

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 781 Update: Dumping Sample

16 October 2014 – The 22-meter Sol 780 drive completed as planned, placing the rover near “Book Cliffs” (visible at the right side of this image). Sol 781 planning was interrupted this morning by the “Great Shakeout” earthquake drill, but the tactical team recovered and stayed on schedule the rest of the day. After making ChemCam and Mastcam observations of “Delta,” “San Rafael Swell,” and “Castle Valley” (all named after places in Utah), the drill sample will be dumped onto the ground and CHIMRA cleaned out. Then the APXS will be placed on the dump pile for an overnight integration. Finally, before dawn on Sol 782, Mastcam will attempt observations of Comet Siding Spring and Mars’ satellites Phobos and Deimos.

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 780 Update: MARDI Video

15 October 2014 – We were originally planning to perform some arm tests on Sol 780 to help diagnose the fault that occurred last weekend, but it was decided that they were too risky. So a drive toward a target dubbed “Book Cliffs” was planned instead. During the drive, MARDI will acquire images of the surface just behind the left front wheel to show what the Pahrump Hills rocks look like all along the rover traverse. As MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead, I was busy today planning the details of this MARDI “video.” We also planned a MAHLI stowed image at the end of the drive, which is safe because no arm motions are involved.

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 779 Update: Using the Arm

14 October 2014 – The Sol 778 data show that the arm instruments are safe, and the arm is ready for more activities. MAHLI will not be used until the recent arm problems are better understood, to ensure that MAHLI’s lens does not get dirty if the dust cover is left open again. However, the APXS can be used, so the Sol 779 plan includes another attempt to measure the chemistry of “Morrison” (see Sol 767 blog). In addition, ChemCam and Mastcam will observe several targets at various distances from the rover. I’m scheduled as MAHLI/MARDI uplink lead tomorrow, so I’m spending some time today to get up to speed on the near-term plans.

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.

Lauren’s Sol 767 Update: Dump Site

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01 October 2014 – Curiosity continues to investigate the Pahrump Hills outcrop. The Sol 767 plan includes MAHLI and APXS observations of the target Morrison, as well as MAHLI images of the drill hole and dump pile (the dump pile consists of the part of the drilled sample that did not make it through the 150-micron sieve). Today’s plan also includes ChemCam and Mastcam observations of the targets “Paoha,” “The Maze,” and “Quartz Spring,” to characterize the drill tailings and other rock features. There is also an atmospheric observation to look for clouds, along with standard RAD and REMS activities. In addition to the science observations, the Sol 767 plan includes SAM cup conditioning to prepare for upcoming SAM activities. Tomorrow will be a soliday, and then we are looking forward to upcoming SAM and CheMin activities.

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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.

Lauren’s Sol 766 Update: Confidence Hills

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30 September 2014 – Curiosity is currently investigating the Pahrump Hills outcrop. This Navcam image from Sol 762 shows part of the workspace with the arm down, analyzing the Confidence Hills drill tailings. While we wait for CheMin to tell us what minerals are present in the drilled sample, we will spend Sol 766 doing targeted remote sensing. The two-hour science block includes ChemCam observations of the interior wall of the Confidence Hills drill hole, as well as nearby fractures (“Straight Cliffs”) and upcoming MAHLI and APXS targets named “Comb Ridge” and Morrison. There are also several Mastcam observations to document the ChemCam targets and image the nearby sand ripples. The plan also includes a number of atmospheric observations to monitor the opacity and search for clouds and dust devils. On Sol 767 we’re planning to do contact science on the target Morrison, and prepare for possible SAM activities.

Lauren Edgar is an SESE Exploration Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. An archive of Lauren’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 765 Update: Feeding CheMin

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29 September 2014 – After our successful drill last week, the main event in today’s sol 765 plan is dropping off the drilled sample in CheMin, which will tell us what minerals are in the rocks of Pahrump Hills. CheMin works by shining a beam of X-rays through the sample and recording how the X-rays reflect off of the structure of the crystals in the sample. To make sure that every possible orientation of the crystals is measured, the sample holder vibrates, causing the powdered rock to mix around in the sample cell.

The drill sample has been sieved so that only particles smaller than 150 microns will go to CheMin. The rover will dump out the particles that are coarser than 150 microns, take pictures of them with Mastcam and MAHLI, and measure their composition with APXS. Not all of the fine-grained sample will go to CheMin: some will be saved for analysis by SAM, and in case we want to re-analyze it with CheMin.

Ryan Anderson is a member of the ChemCam team and the current Shoemaker Postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ. Ryan also writes for the American Geophysical Union’s blogosphere in The Martian Chronicles.

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.

ChemCam RMI Images Makes it to APOD!

An image taken by ChemCam’s Remote Micro-Imager on Sol 758 (23 September) is included in the September 29, 2014 Astronomy Picture of the Day! Check it out!

Ken’s Sol 762-764 Update: Sample Handling

26 September 2014 – Arm activities will resume on Sol 762, starting where they left off on Sol 759, with transfer of the drill sample to the scoop and Mastcam imaging of it. Then the APXS will be placed on the drill tailings (target dubbed “Paradox”) for an overnight integration. In addition, ChemCam will observe targets “Panum” and “Stovepipe Wells” and Mastcam will image the drill tailings through all filters. Finally, SAM will heat a sample from the previous drill target “Windjana” (still held in a sample cup) and measure evolved noble gases overnight on Sols 763 and 764. As MAHLI/MARDI PUL1 again today, I focused on planning MAHLI observations of the drill tailings, but they were deleted because of concerns about the overall complexity of the weekend plan. We hope to take these MAHLI images on Sol 765.

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.

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